City of quakes and broken hearts
Love & Sex
Christchurch has reclaimed its dubious honour as the city holding the highest divorce rate in New Zealand.
After dipping 4 per cent below Auckland in the 2010-2011 financial year because of the earthquakes, Christchurch has once again come out on top as the city of broken hearts.
Ministry of Justice figures released under the Official Information Act show the rate of marriage dissolutions filed in Christchurch's District Court in the 2012-2013 financial year trumped Auckland City by more than 10 per cent.
Divorce applications in the Garden City dropped during the quakes but have been climbing since, jumping from 795 in 2010-2011 to 948 in 2012-2013.
The city's relationship therapists have fielded relentless demand since February 2011, family lawyers have shouldered huge workloads and there have been reported increases in custody disputes and court-enforced parenting and relocation orders.
Wynn Williams relationship and property specialist lawyer Gerald Nation said most Christchurch lawyers would agree there had recently been a "significant amount more family breakdowns resulting in increasing litigation and disputes over childcare issues".
"Quake-related consequences have put families under stress and that has led to a number of separations that might not have occurred otherwise and that has resulted in increasing work for lawyers," Nation said.
Pressure from ongoing anxieties, multiple relocations, damaged homes, loss of employment, insurance woes, school changes and arguments over whether or not to move out of the quake-hit city had compounded for many Christchurch couples and driven some to breaking point.
However, Christchurch has had the highest divorce rate for at least six years, with 288 people per 100,000 filing for a marriage dissolution in 2008-2009.
Just 253 people per 100,000 filed for divorce in Auckland District Court and 231 in Wellington District Court in the same year.
To apply for a dissolution of marriage certificate, a couple must be separated for at least two years so Christchurch's latest balloon in divorce applications cannot be blamed on the 2011 quake, Nation said.
The rise may be sparked by the September 2010 quake or it could be an indication that the "stimulus of the quake" led Cantabrians to formalise their lives and file for divorce after long-term separations, he said.
Relationships Aotearoa national director of clinical services Cary Hayward said there was no doubt the quakes had put demand and stress on Christchurch couples and had raised "big problems" for families.
Relationships Aotearoa has a service specifically set up to provide short-term support to those dealing with quake-related stress and trauma and it has seen about 1000 new clients each year. Over the past three years, demand has not declined.
Goals Centre psychologist and counsellor Neil McPherson said the quakes had forced some strained relationships to break.
"There were so many areas of disagreement. People had totally different ideas about what needed to be done, some people wanted to move while other people wanted to stay, children had to change schools and some parents didn't agree about where they should go."
Divorce rate per 100,000 in Christchurch
- © Fairfax NZ News
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