Largest Spike in Divorce Cases since 1972

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Largest Spike in Divorce Cases since 1972

Data released by the Office of National Statistics has shown that the rise in divorces between 2018 and 2019 was the highest it has been since 1972[1]. The number of divorces in 2019 was 107,599 for opposite-sex couples – an increase of 18.4% from 2018, and the highest number since 2014. The number of divorcing same-sex couples was 822, representing a rise of 7.5%.

ONS claims that casework backlog resulting in more divorces being completed in 2019 could account for the increase.

Elsewhere in the report, 62% of divorces of opposite-sex couples were petitioned by the wife, though this has consistently been the case since 1949.

The most common fact for proving divorce was unreasonable behaviour, cited by 49% of wives and 35% of husbands in opposite-sex couples, 63% of female same-sex divorces and 70% of male ones. Under current law, in order to divorce, a couple can only get divorce if they can prove irretrievable breakdown using one or more of five facts:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Desertion for at least 2 years
  • Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of both parties
  • Separation for at least 5 years even if one party disagrees

A new law passed earlier this year, however, will introduce a new ‘no-fault’ divorce, where there will be no requirement to establish one or more of the above facts to prove irretrievable breakdown. Couples will also be able to apply for a divorce jointly, instead of just one being able to make the petition. These changes are expected to be put into operation in Autumn next year.

Despite this increase in divorces, there has been a general downward trend in the numbers of couples getting divorced, consistent with an overall decline in the number of marriages.

These figures come in as family lawyers have predicted that there will be a rise in divorces caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has put a strain on many people’s relationships. Citizens Advice has even said that searches for guidance on divorce have increased since April. It said views of its divorce webpage on the first September weekend had risen by 25% compared with the same date in 2019.

If you are having problems in your relationship and are looking to start divorce proceedings, Stella Maris Solicitors LLP can help. We can guide you through the entire process, from filing for divorce, to making arrangements for your children. To contact us, telephone 01793 296118 or email


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