• April 19, 2024
 Divorce rate plummets

Divorce rate plummets

Divorces in England and Wales: 2022 – plummeting numbers of divorces granted are the lowest for 50 years!

The Office for National Statistics have released their annual divorce and civil partnership dissolution numbers and rates, partnership type, to whom granted and duration of marriage. It appears the profession aren’t too surprised with the declining numbers of divorces granted. You can view the previous statistics release here.

In 2022 there were 80,057 divorces granted in England and Wales, a 29.5% decrease compared with 2021 (113,505 divorces) and the lowest number of divorces since 1971.

Katie O’Callaghan, Partner at Boodle Hatfield, said:

Fewer people are getting married, which is of course likely to have an overall impact on the number of divorces. Many more couples are choosing simply to cohabit together and having children out of wedlock is no longer considered taboo, in fact, more children in this country are now born out of wedlock than in. Equally, people are marrying later which will also feed into the lower divorce statistics compared to historic years.”

Peter Burgess, partner at Burgess Mee Family Law, commented:

“Despite an initial flurry of filings following the April 2022 introduction of no-fault divorce, which allows couples to divorce without citing fault or needing to be separated, the new law has not prompted a rise in the divorce rate.

On the contrary, the number of divorces has plummeted to the lowest levels for more than half a century. At the same time, the median duration of marriages ending in divorce is the longest on record.

In 2022, the median duration of marriages that ended in divorce (the mid-point of all durations) was 12.9 years for opposite-sex couples and 7.5 and 6.3 years for male and female same-sex couples, respectively; the longest seen in the ONS timeseries.

Sital Fontenelle, Head of the Family & Divorce team at Kingsley Napley, added:

“As the Government press release suggests, the declining divorce rate can perhaps partly be attributed to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, effective from April 2022 which introduced new mandatory waiting periods during the divorce process.

Undoubtedly, however, there are also societal trends going on. The cost-of-living crisis may have deterred some couples from divorcing, although based on our experience of the 2007 financial crisis, this will probably mean divorces are delayed rather than decided against altogether. Recorded divorces are happening later and after longer marriages, but at the same time co-habitation is on the rise for younger couples.”

Divorce rates in 2022 were 6.7 for men and 6.6 for women per 1,000 of the male or female married population (including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples):

  • lower than rates in 2021, with 9.5 for men and 9.4 for women per 1,000 of the married population.

There were 525 civil partnership dissolutions (including same-sex and opposite-sex couples) in 2022

  • a 22.8% decrease compared with 2021 (680 dissolutions) and the lowest recorded since 2010.

Burgess continued:

“It’s possible that cost-of-living pressures are preventing many people from divorcing as the impact of separation into two households is too great a burden.

Furthermore, the previous statistics were inflated by a post-pandemic spike in divorce filings, which has now tailed off.”

Burgess isn’t the only one who believes the cost of living crisis is having an impact. Nick Gova, Partner and Head of Family at Spector Constant & Williams said:

 “The cost of living crisis has played a big part in the falling divorce rate. Uncertainty in the housing market, increasing mortgage rates, concerns over job security and rising bills will worry many couples and lead them to put big life decisions like separation and divorce on hold. It will be interesting to see if the divorce rate increases again when the economic situation improves.”

The number of divorces and dissolutions granted during 2022 may have been affected by the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, which came into effect on 6 April 2022; this act introduced new mandatory waiting periods at important stages, and other changes including allowing couples to end a partnership jointly, and the removal of grounds for divorce (also known as “Facts”).There were 7,394 divorces and 54 dissolutions (9.2% of all divorces and 10.3% of all dissolutions) granted under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act – 28.8% of these new-law divorces, and 61.1% of new-law dissolutions, were granted under joint application.O’Callaghan, continued:

“This is an unprecedented decrease potentially reflecting the general sense of economic uncertainty we are currently experiencing. The strain that the cost of living crisis and rising inflation has had on families cannot be underestimated. Many are cautious to make significant decisions, particularly those that are likely to adversely impact their financial security even more in times of economic turmoil and uncertainty. Issues like high mortgage rates are likely to deter some couples from taking action in circumstances where they may simply see it as impossible to afford to split one household into two. 

It has been widely reported that the English Family Court is suffering significant and crippling backlogs in dealing with financial and children proceedings that have been issued as a consequence of divorce. In most cases, it is advisable not to apply for the final order in the divorce (which dissolves your marriage) until the finances have been concluded. Equally, some children disputes require the determination of the finances to be deferred (and therefore the divorce too) as the financial outcome may depend on where a child is going to live, for example. These factors are likely, therefore, to impact the divorce statistics. Even if divorces have been initiated, it may be that the final order is delayed by months, or even years, if the finances and/or children arrangements are not yet resolved.”

Fontenelle concluded:

“Despite today’s figures, the fact is divorce and separation still affects many couples and families. We continue to see this in our work although increasingly clients are willing to mediate or explore alternative forms of dispute resolution to agree terms both financially and for the sake of their children. The good news is that there are now a variety of ways to go about that depending on the circumstances and how couples wish to approach such a significant event.”

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First published on Today’s Family Lawyer on 23rd February 2024

Rebecca Morgan, Editor

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