CHELMSFORD has one of the highest divorce rates in the UK, it has revealed.

Figures, released by the Ministry of Justice, show a total of 1,542 divorce petitions were filed at Chelmsford County Court in 2013.

This amount places the city in the top ten for most divorces across the country, with Birmingham topping the table. Chelmsford is ninth.

The stats have been released a month before a new law is introduced meaning separating couples must consider mediation first to settle any disputes.

Solicitor Philip Hoddell, a partner at law firm Birkett Long, said: “Divorce is rising among young people and Chelmsford has a big young population.

“Also divorce is rising with the over 50s and there are lots of over 50s in rural areas just outside of Chelmsford.

“You also have to consider Chelmsford is growing and with that growth comes a bigger population and therefore a likelihood divorces will rise.”

He also believes more should be done to educate people about mediation after their decision last year to cut off legal aid in family law cases.

Mr Hoddell added: “We as professionals told the Government that if legal aid was cut then mediation rates would drop.

“The biggest referal method to mediation was through solicitors, but because couples cannot get legal aid for this, mediation figures have fallen through the floor.

“I’m a big fan of mediation and more needs to be done to tell people about the benefits of mediation.”

Government officials said they hope the new laws make the divorce process easier emotionally.

Family justice minister Simon Hughes said: “We are committed to making sure that more people make use of it rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.”