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01 February 2023

Divorce Rate is down!  Or is it…? 

The Payne Hicks Beach Family team review the new data on divorces in UK, and look at the insights and whether this is a ‘trend’ or a one-off occurrence.

The Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) has just published their round up of divorce statistics relating to the calendar year 2022.  These statistics reveal some interesting and quite surprising results, but if we examine the data and the context more closely, the explanations on divorce statistics may not be as they seem.

Here are the highlights from the ONS report:

  1. In 2021 there were 113,505 divorces. In 2022 this reduced dramatically to 80,057.  This is the lowest number of divorces in a single year since 1971 and represents a reduction of 29.5% year on year.
  2. In all likelihood, the reason behind this significant fall in the number of divorces is the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act. Many couples will have held off filing for divorce in the early months of 2022 and waited for this Act to become effective on 6 April 2022 – this enabled parties to divorce on a “no fault” basis rather than having to rely on one of the five grounds for divorce set out in the previous legislation.  It also enabled couples to file to end their marriage jointly for the first time.  Another contributing factor to the perceived drop in divorce rates may be that the number of divorces in 2021 was higher than usual reflecting the delays and disruption to the family justice system caused by the pandemic.  Furthermore, the challenging financial landscape and the cost of living crisis may have contributed to the drop in divorce rates.  For many couples separation at this time may simply have been unaffordable and they may have made the pragmatic decision to stay together (or continue to live together) pro tem for economic reasons.
  3. Looking at how long the average marriage that ended in divorce lasted, the median duration was 12.9 years for opposite sex couples. Interestingly, this is the longest duration on record.  For male same-sex marriages the average duration was 7.5 years and for female same-sex marriages the average was 6.3 years.  Again, these figures are the highest on record.
  4. In 2022 the divorce rate for all couples was 6.7 for men and 6.6 for women per 1,000 of the married population. These numbers are the lowest on record since 1971.
  5. The statistics also examine the percentages of marriages that end in divorce before celebration of a silver wedding anniversary (25 years). For a couple who tied the knot in 1963 23% had divorced by the time they should have celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.  For couples marrying in 1997 this has risen to 41%.

“This final point tells the real picture,” comments Rebecca Cockcroft, divorce lawyer Payne Hicks Beach.  “In real terms the number of marriages that end in divorce within 25 years is at 41%.  Cultural, economic and lifestyle changes over the past decades will have contributed to that increase and couples need expert legal advice on how to prepare for marriage, and how to navigate divorce.”

Click for further information on Family services at Payne Hicks Beach. For further information contact Rebecca Cockcroft or call 020 7465 4300.

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Rebecca Cockcroft
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