Up to date divorce rates in England and Wales

The Office of National Statistics latest annual divorce numbers and rates in England and Wales reveal an 18% rise in divorces in 2019.

It has certainly been a turbulent year in family law due to the pandemic which has seemingly been directly responsible for an impending surge in the divorce rate in the UK.

New data released by comparison site, The Law Superstore reveals that demand for legal services relating to divorce was 30% higher in May and June 2020 than in the final quarter of 2019.

However, new research has revealed that lockdown has helped marriages. A new report by the Marriage Foundation found twice as many unions improved during the pandemic than made worse – following an analysis of 2,559 parents who completed the UK Household Longitudinal Survey Coronavirus Study by Essex University.

Here is a snapshot of the statistics:

  • There were 107,599 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2019, increasing by 18.4% from 90,871 in 2018; the scale of this increase partly reflects divorce centres processing a backlog of casework in 2018, which is likely to have translated into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.
  • The divorce rate among opposite-sex couples in 2019 increased to 8.9 divorces per 1,000 married men and women aged 16 years and over from 7.5 in 2018; this increase will have been impacted by the additional processing of casework in 2018.
  • There were 822 divorces among same-sex couples in 2019, nearly twice the number in 2018 (428 divorces); of these, nearly three-quarters (72%) were between female couples.
  • Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2019 with 49% of wives and 35% of husbands petitioning on these grounds; it was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 63% of divorces among women and 70% among men.
  • In 2019, the average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 12.3 years for opposite-sex couples, a small decrease from 12.5 years in the previous year.

The Statistician’s comment:

“Same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014. Since then, we have seen the number of divorces of same-sex couples increase each year from very small numbers in 2015 when the first divorces took place, to more than 800 in 2019, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population in England and Wales.

“While we see that 56% of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples. Unreasonable behaviour, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.”

Joanna Farrands, Partner and Head of Family at Moore Barlow comments on the divorce stats:

“Once again behaviour is the most commonly cited ground in petitions for divorce. This is because, if they wish to proceed with a divorce straight away, couples only have two options of adultery or behaviour.

“This further supports the proposition of moving to no fault divorce hopefully by next autumn so that we can move past the need to make accusations at the outset of a divorce and focus on working together to achieve an amicable solution.

“The number of divorces has increased in the last year due to a backlog for processing divorces in 2018/2019. 2019/2020 is likely to see a further increase no doubt as a result of the pandemic. Family solicitors are reporting a significant increase in enquiries and work, often fuelled by families being thrown into uncertainty and stress as well as having to spend increased periods of time together due to working from home and lockdown.”

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