Facts about Divorce in England and Wales

Facts about divorce in England - Best Solicitors

The latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) predict that 42% of marriages in England and Wales will end in divorce. This is an alarming percentage at first glance but, with people living longer and divorce not holding the same taboo it once did, it is perhaps not entirely unexpected. With the likelihood of experiencing divorce so high, let’s delve further into some of the key facts about divorce in England and Wales.


  • There were 101,669 divorces of opposite-sex couples across England and Wales in 2017


The 101,669 divorces from 2017 follow a general trend of declining divorce numbers. This figure is a 4.9% decrease from 2016, but very similar to the number seen in 2015. The figure is reminiscent of the numbers seen in the early 70s, around the time just prior to the Divorce Reform Act coming into effect, after which numbers climbed for many years.


  • Divorce numbers are generally decreasing, but part of this is due to a reduction in the number of marriages


Marriage is much less common nowadays, with marriage rates currently the lowest on record. For context, there were approximately 92,000 more marriages in 1990 than in 2015 (the latest year marriage statistics are available). As a result of this, there are fewer married couples to get divorced, which will result in lower rates of divorce.


  • The divorce rate for 2017 was 8.4 divorces per 1000 opposite-sex married couples, the lowest rate since 1973


Divorce rates are at a historical low, suggesting that those who do decide to get married are more likely to stay together than in the past. Changes in attitudes and behaviours are likely behind this shift, with young couples now much more likely to live together before getting married. This cohabitation stage, which would have been unusual in the past, can serve as a way to weed out weaker relationships which would be more likely to end in divorce.


  • In 2017, 74% of divorces between same-sex couples were for women


With marriage between same-sex couples only possible since March 2014, there isn’t a lot of data yet on these divorces. Interestingly, of the 338 divorces of same-sex couples in 2017, almost three quarters were between female couples.


  • In 2017, the median length of marriage before getting divorced was 12.2 years


The median length of marriages which end in divorce has been very gradually increasing. For example, 20 years ago in 1997, the median duration was 10 years. With people living longer and attitudes to divorce much more open, more people are getting divorced later in life.


  • The average age at divorce was 46.4 for men and 43.9 for women in 2017


The average age people get divorced at has been steadily increasing year on year. Since 1985, the average age at divorce has risen by nine years. The difference in average age between the sexes also reflects the fact that men tend to marry women who are younger than themselves.


  • The most common reason for divorce is ‘unreasonable behaviour’


Although there has recently been great interest in bringing in a ‘no fault’ system for divorce in the UK, currently, the only legal ground for divorce is the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of a marriage. Of the four categories this can be split into, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is the most commonly cited reason for a divorce.


  • The latest estimate suggests that 42% of marriages in England and Wales will end in divorce


Estimates produced by the ONS suggest that 42% of all marriages will end in divorce. Although there are early signs this figure may be declining (see points 2 and 3), that is a very significant proportion. Factors that can increase the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce include getting married at a young age and if either of the people in the couple have been divorced previously.

For legal guidance in the event of a marriage or civil partnership breakdown, trust in the experienced team at Best Solicitors. Our skilled and tactful solicitors can help you through every stage of this difficult process to ensure the best outcome for all. Get in touch today for your free initial telephone or face-to-face consultation to discuss your situation – we currently serve customers throughout Sheffield and Barnsley and offer fixed fees for divorce and finance matters.

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