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18 Nov 2020

Family & Matrimonial

Divorce rates soar to highest in 50 years

Our Head of Matrimonial & Family Law, Kate Thomas, gives her reaction to the latest divorce statistics issued by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week.

“The new data showing that the number of divorces in England and Wales has seen its largest annual percentage increase in nearly 50 years makes for sobering reading, particularly when we consider that these figures are for 2019, before the additional pressures of Covid-19 even began.

“The figures show that divorces of heterosexual couples rose by 18.4% from 90,781 in 2018 to 107,599 in 2019. This is the largest annual percentage increase in the number of divorces since 1972, when The Divorce Reform Act made it easier for couples to divorce. Divorces among same sex couples in England and Wales nearly doubled, from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019.

“The ONS has explained that the scale of the increases in both cases can partly be attributed to a backlog of divorce petitions from 2017 that were processed by the Ministry of Justice in early 2018. Nevertheless, these figures are still incredibly high, and unfortunately, we expect them to rise even further by this time next year.

“The coronavirus crisis has put a huge strain on many relationships. Being forced to spend a lot more time than usual with partners has inevitably brought any underlying problems that already exist within the marriage to the surface and has made people reconsider their future together. Indeed, we see a similar pattern every year after Christmas when couples who are already unhappy in their marriages have to spend time together without the usual distractions of everyday life, and end up deciding that they should go their separate ways as they enter the new year.

“Clearly, any existing marital problems became much more difficult for couples to ignore while living in such extreme, sudden confinement, the likes of which we have never experienced before – particularly when combined with the added pressures and stresses that this year has brought to so many people.

“As soon as the pandemic hit, we were fully expecting to see a rise in divorce cases and were able to increase staffing levels accordingly to cope with the high levels of demand so that all enquiries could be dealt with efficiently and sensitively in these worrying times.”

Kate Thomas heads up Harding Evans’ specialist team of matrimonial and family lawyers who have years of experience in dealing with a wide variety of divorce cases. If you would like to speak to one of the team in confidence, please call 01633 760678 or email thomaska@hevans.com.

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