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Law Articles

Divorces in England and Wales 11/01/2021

Recently released data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that there has been an increase of almost 20% in the number of couples getting divorce between 2018 and 2019. Figures are released annually in Autumn for the previous year using data from HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

In 2019, 107,599 opposite-sex couples were granted a divorce, an increase of 18.4% from 90,871 in 2018. This translates to a divorce rate of 8.9 divorces per 1,000 married men and women, up from 7.5 in 2018. Despite this increase, there has been an overall downward trend in both divorce numbers and the divorce rate since the most recent peak in 2003 of 13.4 men per 1,000 married men and 13.2 women per 1,000 married women with 153,056 divorces.

There were 822 divorces of same-sex couples in 2018, almost double the number (428) in 2018. Nearly three-quarters of these were between female couples.

The proportion of divorces being petitioned by the wife remained the same as in 2018 at 62%. The majority of opposite-sex divorces in England and Wales since 1949 have been petitioned by wives, however this has fallen by 10 percentage points since the peak in 1992 of 72%.

The most-commonly cited reason for divorce for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples was unreasonable behaviour. In opposite-sex divorces, 49% of wife petitioners and 35% of husband petitioners cited this, whilst 63% of women petitioners and 70% of male petitioners relied upon this reason in same-sex divorces.

In 2019, the median duration of a marriage ending in divorce was 12.3 years for opposite-sex couples, meaning that 50% of marriages ending in divorce lasted less than, and 50% longer than, 12.3 years. This is a small decrease from the median figure of 12.5 years in 2018, but remains longer than the previous highest median figure of 12.2 years recorded in 1972. This figure has fluctuated between 8.9 years and 12.5 years over the past 50 years.

The median duration of marriage for same-sex couples was 4.1 years for women and 4.3 years for men, reflecting that same-sex marriage only became available in England and Wales in 2014, with the first resulting divorces occurring in 2015.

The ONS notes that the divorce data is likely to be impacted by a backlog of divorce petitions from 2017 that were processed by the Ministry of Justice early in 2018, some of which will have been finalised in 2019. This may contribute to the lower number of divorces in 2018 and the increase seen in 2019.

Figures for divorces in 2020 will be released in the Autumn of 2021. Some predict a sharp increase in divorces following the COVID-19 crisis, citing the strain the pandemic restrictions are having on relationships.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 07977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.

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