Newly released figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal an 18.4% yearly increase in the number of divorces in England and Wales in 2019. A total of 107,599 divorces among heterosexual couples were recorded in 2019, compared with 90,871 the year before. Divorces between same-sex couples showed an increase of 92% compared with 2018, with the number of divorces jumping from 428 to 822 last year. The ONS admits that the figures are likely to be higher than expected since divorce centres had caught up with a backlog of cases carried over from 2018.
The most common reason for divorce among opposite-sex couples was reported as unreasonable behaviour, cited by 49% of women and 35% of men. This was also the case for same-sex couples, accounting for 63% of divorces between women and 70% between men. ONS figures show that the average duration of a heterosexual marriage was 12.3 years in 2019, slightly down from 12.5 years in 2018.
The 107,599 divorces recorded last year is the highest number since 2014, when 111,169 divorces were granted. Additionally, the 18.4% increase over 2018 is the highest annual increase since 1972. However, although divorces increased in 2019, there has been a gradual reduction in numbers since a peak in 2003, with opposite-sex divorces now at a level 30% below 2003 figures.
Obviously there is a correlation between the number of divorces and the proportion of married couples in the population. The ONS survey shows that in 2019 divorce rates for opposite-sex couples increased to 8.9 per 1,000 men and women, up from 7.5 per 1,000 the previous year (partly due to recovering from the backlog). These rates are, however, much lower than the recent peak years of 2003 and 2004, when of 1,000 married men and women an average of 13.3 were granted a divorce.
It is now widely predicted that divorce rates for the current year will increase as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. The lockdown periods have put great strain on many marriages, with couples forced to live under the same roof for many weeks whilst attempting to deal with financial worries, employment issues, home schooling, family problems, and isolating. The forthcoming Christmas break, usually the worst time of the year for any relationship under stress, will only add to the potential for a marriage to break down.
It can be stressful and complicated when relationships break down. Bretherton Law’s experienced Family and Child Law Solicitors have been helping people with changes in their circumstances for over 50 years. We are members of Resolution and Accredited in Family and Child Law by the Law Society. For honest, sympathetic advice call Atifha Aftab on 01727 869293, or contact us using the form below.
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