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More couples say ‘I don’t’ after 30 years of marriage

New Statistics New Zealand research shows the number of long-term marriages ending in divorce has risen sharply in the past decade. In 2003, 940 marriages of 30-plus years ended in divorce – 60% more than the 570 in 1993.

Experts say the trend is probably driven by women with financial independence leaving their husbands after their children left home.

Roy McKenzie Centre for Family Studies director Jan Pryor said people now had higher expectations of their relationships. After the children left home, many couples decided they did not want to spend another 30 years in an unfulfilling relationship.

Pryor said marital break-ups could be just as distressing for adult sons and daughters as for youngsters, but in different ways.

Families Commission figures showed nearly half of Kiwi mothers would be solo parents at some stage before they turned 50, and one in five would live in a step-family.

These trends have alarmed many, who blame the demise of traditional family values for the nation’s woeful child abuse and domestic violence statistics.

Maxim Institute director Bruce Logan said research showed children were better off with a mother and father who were married.

But the country’s latest champion of the family, new Families Commission head Dr Rajen Prasad, denounced the “moral panic” and said families were very resilient to change.