Large Decrease In Divorce Applications Due To ‘Administrative Reasons’?

Large Decrease In Divorce Applications Due To ‘Administrative Reasons’?

Recent figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have shown a large decrease in divorce rates in 2018, the lowest rate in 48 years.

In 2018 there were 90,871 divorces of opposite sex couples, a decrease of 10.6% on the previous year. The downward trend has also been consistent with the decline in marriages per year since 1989.

The ONS however has stated that there is an ‘administrative reason behind the scale of the decrease’ but that it expects an increase in 2019 due to divorce centres processing a backlog of work last year, resulting in 8% more petitions that will ‘translate into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.

There are however differing views on the reasons for the decrease.

There is a trend that the divorce rate reduces whilst cohabitation rates increase, meaning there are more couples who have lived together a number of years before getting married. This would allow a couple the chance to ‘get to know each other’ before committing to marriage, and as rates of separation of cohabiting couples is not documented, it is unclear whether cohabiting couple separation would ‘make up the difference’.

It may also be due to couples choosing to get married later in life, perhaps meaning they are entering into a marriage with a more mature mind or be less likely to do so due to family or social pressure to marry. This may also fit the trend that marriages are also lasting longer than they have done in previous years; with the average now at 12.4 years.

One family law partner however, says the drop is not a true reflection of divorce in England and Wales, but rather due to the couples awaiting the much promised Divorce Bill.

Zahra Pabani, Family Law Partner at Irwin Mitchell, told The Law Society Gazette:

“No-fault divorce repeatedly being on and off the legislative table has left divorcing couples in limbo. I’ve had clients say to me, “I’m not going to get divorced yet because I’m waiting for no-fault divorce to come in” – and clearly unhappy couples are biding their time for the divorce rate to be so low. Once no-fault divorce comes in, divorce rates will skyrocket just as they did in the 1970s when new legislation was introduced.

“The ONS itself notes that an administrative backlog is partly to blame for the drop and that rates will most likely be higher next year. The reality is that the courts have suffered through numerous funding cuts, and court employees are increasingly overworked and understaffed. Delays are therefore inevitable and until this is remedied, it will likely skew future statistics.”

Only time will tell whether Zahra is correct or if it is in fact the backlog due to the divorce centres. Let us know your thoughts on the reason for the sharp decrease in divorce rates.

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