Biggest annual percentage increase in divorces since 1972, new UK data shows

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By Joe Gammie, Pennsylvania

The number of divorces in England and Wales has seen its biggest annual percentage increase in almost 50 years, new data shows.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), released on Tuesday, showed divorces of heterosexual couples increased by 18.4%, from 90,871 in 2018 to 107,599 last year – the highest number high since 2014, when 111,169 divorces were declared in England and Wales.

It is also the largest annual percentage increase in the number of divorces since 1972, following the introduction of the 1969 Divorce Reform Act, which made it easier for couples to divorce in the event of separation, the ONS said.

Meanwhile, divorces among same-sex couples in England and Wales have nearly doubled, from 428 in 2018 to 822 last year.

Almost three quarters (72%) of them were female couples.

But the ONS added that the magnitude of the increases in both cases can in part be attributed to the fact that divorce centers dealt with a backlog of cases in 2018, which likely resulted in a higher number. high number of divorces pronounced in 2019.

He added: “The magnitude of the increase can be partly attributed to a backlog of divorce applications from 2017 which were processed by the Department of Justice in early 2018, some of which will have resulted in absolute decrees ( divorces completed) in 2019.

“This likely contributed to both the particularly low number of divorces in 2018 (the lowest since 1971) and the increase seen in 2019.”

David Leadercramer, an Osbornes Law partner specializing in family matters, warned that there could be a further increase in divorces on the horizon due to the coronavirus pandemic putting “immeasurable pressure” on relationships.

He said: “Despite these numbers representing a big increase in divorces, I predict it is the calm before the storm because I would expect to see even higher numbers next year.

“The pandemic has put immeasurable strain on relationships and caused a massive influx of cases in divorce courts.

“In 35 years as a family lawyer, I have never seen a year as busy as this year and that will be reflected in the number of divorces next year.”

The ONS also said that the number of same-sex divorces is increasing every year, reflecting the growing size of the same-sex married population since the introduction of same-sex marriage in March 2014.

Kanak Ghosh, from the vital statistics branch of the ONS, said: “Same-sex couples were able to get married in England and Wales from March 2014.

“Since then, we’ve seen the number of same-sex divorces increase every year, from very small numbers in 2015, when the first divorces took place, to over 800 in 2019, reflecting the growing size of married people. same sex. population in England and Wales.

“While we find that 56% of same-sex marriages involved women, almost three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 involved female couples.

“Unreasonable behavior, which includes adultery, was the most common reason for divorce among same-sex couples this year, as nearly two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.”

The ONS said there has been an overall downward trend in the number of divorces since the last peak of 153,065 in 2003, and that opposite-sex divorces remained 30% lower than that year. .

Overall, this corresponded to an overall decline in the number of marriages between 2003 and 2009, he added.

He said: “Changes in attitude towards cohabitation as an alternative to marriage or before marriage, particularly at a younger age, are likely to have been a factor affecting the general decline in divorce rates since 2003.

“Cohabitation levels have increased over this period as the married population has declined and our latest marriage statistics for 2017 show that nearly nine in 10 couples (88%) cohabitated before marriage.”

Unreasonable behavior was the most common reason for couples to divorce in 2019, the ONS said.

The new figures showed that 49% of wives and 35% of husbands in heterosexual marriages filed for divorce on these grounds.

It was also the most common reason for divorce of same-sex couples, accounting for 63% of divorces among women and 70% among men.

In 2019, the median length of marriage at the time of divorce for heterosexual couples decreased slightly, from 12.5 years in 2018 to 12.3 years.

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