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HomeLegal InsightDivorce rates on rise - comment from family lawyers RWK Goodman

Divorce rates on rise – comment from family lawyers RWK Goodman

The Office for National Statistics has released data on divorce rates in England and Wales for 2021. It shows there were 113,505 divorces for the year, an increase of 9.6% on the previous year.

The increase is, in part, almost certainly due to the major disruption to the family courts and the decisions by many to delay divorce proceedings because of the Covid pandemic, says Simon Bassett, Partner and Head of Family Law at RWK Goodman. 

The ONS reports that 113,505 divorces were granted in 2021, a 9.6% increase on 2020 when 103,592 divorces were granted. Its data shows that women are more likely to petition for divorce (63%) than men (37%).

The data also shows women stating ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as the most common cause for divorce (48%), with men more commonly citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and ‘two-year separation’ equally (both 35%). This will change for 2022 following the introduction of no-fault divorce in April.

The ONS data highlights a continuing trend of ‘silver divorces’, those divorcing before their 25th wedding anniversary, rising from just 23% in 1963, the first year data was collected, to 41% for those marrying in 1996, those now approaching their silver wedding anniversary.

Simon Bassett, Partner and Head of Family Law at RWK Goodman comments:

“This increase in divorce rates is likely attributable to two things. First, the enormous disruption to the family courts because of the Covid pandemic. Secondly, and more importantly, many individuals will have delayed divorce proceedings realising that they may have to remain under the same roof as their partner for quite some time together with concerns about the impact of a divorce on their already strained finance. Indeed, economic concerns leading to deferring the decision to divorce is something that we are seeing being repeated now as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

“Divorce amongst older couples is increasingly common and, as the ONS data suggests, more likely to be led by women. As we live longer, couples approaching retirement or having recently retired realise that they no longer want to spend the next 30 years or more together.

“We are likely to see the ONS data change in 2022 following a change in legislation that now requires a 20 week wait between the issuing of divorce petitions and for conditional orders. In addition, the take up of joint applications for divorce, now permitted under the new rules, has been much more limited than anticipated.”

The ONS data on divorce is issued just a few weeks in advance of Resolution’s Good Divorce Week (28 November – 2 December) that seeks to encourage alternative dispute resolution methods and the adoption of no-fault divorce.

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