The number of divorcing couples has risen for the first time since 2003, according to official figures from the Office of National Statistics.
The number of divorces in England and Wales in 2010 rose to 119,589 from 113,949 the previous year.
The 5% leap is the first increase since 2003 and follows years of decline as more couples have been choosing to cohabit in favour of getting married.
The ONS said the rise could be down to the delayed impact of the recession as couples separate as a result of financial arguments leading to separation and then eventual divorce.
Divorce rates rose similarly in 1993 following the 1990-92 recession, suggesting that couples separate then wait until their finances have improved before commencing divorce proceedings.
The ONS said in its statistical bulletin: "The small rise in the divorce rate and the number of divorces in 2010 could be associated with the economic climate following the 2008-09 recession.
"One theory suggests that recession could contribute to a rise in partnership break-ups because of increased financial strain, changes and employment and related lifestyle changes. In addition some individuals may believe they will get a more favourable settlement if their income is currently low.
"In contrast, an alternative theory suggests that partnerships would be less likely to dissolve in an unfavourable economic climate since couples would be less able to end the partnership for financial reasons - these may include the cost of lawyers, negative equity in housing or not being able to afford to maintain two households following divorce."
The average marriage now lasts 11.4 year, with one in three breaking down by the 15th anniversary.
The rise will have a significant knock-on effect as half of the couples divorcing in 2010 had at least one child aged under 16.
The proportion of divorcing couples who have had previous failed marriages has doubled since 1980.
Grant Howell, partner in the family team at Charles Russell says:
"Divorce figures are back on the rise with financial pressures in the economic crisis adding to the strain on married couples. With the number of cohabitating couples standing at 2.2 million, the Government should look again at reforming family law to address the hardship and injustice suffered by cohabitants on breakdown of the relationship, as identified by the Law Commission."
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