28 Oct 2020

Family & Matrimonial

Facts and figures about divorce

Unless you’ve been through it yourself, divorce is an area that many of us will know very little about. Our head of family law, Kate Thomas, talks us through some top line facts and figures around divorce in the UK.

What proportion of marriages end in divorce?

According to 2018 figures (the latest available figures), 42% of marriages in England and Wales currently end in divorce.

We do not have the figures for this year yet, which will clearly be affected by lockdown, but in recent years, this percentage has been falling. In 2018, the number of divorces of opposite sex couples in England and Wales in 2018 decreased by 10.6% to 90,871, the lowest number since 1971.

Conversely, there was an increase in the number of divorces of same-sex couples in 2018 – 428, up from 338 in 2017 – but this reflects the increasing number of same-sex couple who are getting married.

Are less people getting married these days?

While the number of divorces has been steadily dropping, so too has the number of couples getting married. Back in 1964, there were 359,307 weddings but that number is now closer to 250,000.

The fall in divorce rates is also likely to be because people are getting married at an older age and are increasingly cohabiting beforehand, both factors which, according to statistics, increase marriage’s chance of success.

What is the most common age to get divorced?

The majority of people who get divorced are in their forties, with the average age for men at 46.9 and for women, 44.5. People generally seem to be staying together for longer before getting divorced, with the average duration of marriage of couples who divorced in 2018 at 12.5 years. This figure has gradually increased since 2009.

What is the main cause of divorce?

Unreasonable behaviour is the most common cause of divorce in England and Wales, accounting for nearly half of all divorces in both opposite and same sex couples. The second most common reason is after a 2 year separation with consent. Adultery is the cause of around 10% of divorces.

Who usually petitions for divorce?

The majority of divorces of opposite sex couples in 2018 were petitioned by the wife (62%), the same proportion as the previous year. Wives have consistently petitioned the majority of opposite-sex divorces in England and Wales since 1949, but the proportion has fallen by 10 percentage points, from 72% in 1992. 74% of same-sex divorces in 2017 were for female couples.

Is divorce more common in second marriages?

No, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Of every divorce in 2017, it was the first divorce for both partners in 59% of cases, one party had been divorced previously in 18% of cases and both parties had been divorced previously in 8% of cases.

Get in touch

At Harding Evans, we know how stressful and emotionally draining divorce can be. If your marriage has broken down, our expert and friendly family law team can advise you on all aspects of getting divorced and will help to minimise the stress and upset that inevitably comes with ending a marriage. For a confidential discussion about your situation, please contact Kate Thomas on 01633 760678 or email hello@hevans.com.

Source: Office of National Statistics

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