Is the divorce rate really dropping? « McAlister Family Law


Is the divorce rate really dropping?


The divorce rate for opposite sex couples in England and Wales has plunged to its lowest level for almost half a century.  BUT Ministry of Justice statistics highlight an administrative reason behind the scale of this decrease, and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today it expected a higher number of divorces in 2019.

There were 90,871 divorces of heterosexual partners in 2018 – a drop of 10.6% compared with the previous year and the lowest number since 1971, in figures released today by the ONS. The divorce rate fell to 7.5 per 1,000 married men and women from 8.4 in the previous year. Divorcing couples were married for an average of 12-and-a-half years, according to the figures.

The ONS said the drop “partly reflects the overall trend seen in recent years”, but was also more pronounced because 8% more divorce petitions were processed last year as a backlog of cases from 2017 were dealt with.

One interesting statistic has been highlighted as main reason for the long-term decline in divorce - the lower rate of marriage as more couples opt to cohabit without going through a wedding ceremony.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 51.9% of wives and 36.8% of husbands petitioned for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.

Bear in mind however there is only one ground for divorce, namely that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down”. To evidence this, the petitioner (applicant) for the divorce will need to rely upon one of what is known as The Five Facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion (in practice, this is rare, and difficult to prove)
  • two years separation with agreement by both that there should be a divorce
  • five years separation (the consent of the Respondent is not needed)

The most common facts relied upon are unreasonable behaviour, which can include infidelity, or adultery.

Chris Fairhurst, partner, said: "Although the recent ONS figures indicate a decline in the divorce figures and suggest reasons for that, the bigger picture is far from clear. With increasing delays in court processing of divorce applications, combined with some couples possibly delaying divorce for economic reasons, there may be hidden numbers that are not reflected in this information. Anecdotal evidence also points to some couples waiting until they can obtain a “No Fault” divorce. Unfortunately, introduction of that legislation will now be delayed indefinitely, as it failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the election was called, meaning the legislation will need to be re-introduced."

27 Mar 2020

Domestic abuse incidents may rise due to UK lockdown

We are concerned for those who might be victims of domestic violence suffering more than ever during the UK lockdown. Managing partner Amanda McAlister has issued some advice.  

Read more

24 Mar 2020

Separated parents and child contact during UK lockdown

Following the new lockdown rules announced last night (Monday 23 March) in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus, for the next three weeks everyone will only be able to leave their homes for one of four reasons:

  1. Shopping for necessities
  2. Once a day for exercise
  3. Medical need or providing care
  4. Travelling to or from work (if you can't work from home)

We look at what this means for children, particularly if they reside with your ex- partner.

Read more

3 Mar 2020

The Domestic Abuse Bill

The latest version of the Domestic Abuse Bill has had its first reading in the House of Commons.  Domestic abuse accounts for a third of all violent crime.  We look at the bill in more detail and examine the implications.

Read more

Book an appointment

It starts here.

Book your appointment here. Your first consultation is free.

Thank you for your message

We will be in contact shortly to arrange your appointment

Arrange another appointment?
Book an Appointment