Divorce Statistics Show Need For Family Law Reform

Latest Figures Show Rise In Divorces And Unreasonable Behaviour As Main Cause


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Leading family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say the latest divorce statistics released today show the need for the Government to consider reforms to the system so that couples are not forced to choose between waiting for 2  years after they have decided to separate , or to say the other person has behaved unreasonably, before making their break up official.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that there was a slight rise in the number of divorces in 2012 to 118,140 compared to 2011, with estimates in the report suggesting that 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce.

The statistics also show that just under half of divorces involved children while the age group between 40 and 44 had the highest number of divorces. There are many couples over 60 divorcing, continuing the trends over the past few years.

The most common reason for divorce for both sexes was unreasonable behaviour with almost 16,000 marriages ended in 2012 because of adultery. But lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say that this adversarial approach is partly due to the system which requires couples who have simply ‘grown apart’ with no unreasonable behaviour to be separated for two years before divorcing.

Alison Hawes, a partner in the family law team at Irwin Mitchell which has offices across the country, said:

Expert Opinion
It is not surprising that most divorces cite unreasonable behaviour, because regrettably the law is such that we still have to attribute fault to a marriage breakdown to achieve a divorce unless the parties have been separated for over two years.

“Most people don’t want to wait until they’ve been separated for years once they have decided to divorce so are forced to rely on one of the immediate fault grounds which means they make a list of complaints about how the other person has behaved.

“When this is sensitively done by specialist lawyers that can minimise the extra stress such allegations can cause but it may be that one of the reforms the government should consider is no fault divorce so people are not forced to go down this route where they are clear there is no future in their marriage but don’t want to criticise the other party and possibly inflame things.

“The small rise in divorces could be a sign of renewed confidence following the recession, certainly there were people affected by money worries who may have put off a divorce previously. The trend in the rising number of older people divorcing also continued as people are living healthier, longer lives and are wishing to pursue other relationships whereas before couples may have felt compelled to stay together in old age.

“There is also still the issue of couples drifting apart after ‘empty nest syndrome’ as the children head off to university or move out of the family home.

“With almost half divorces involving children it is important to remember that no two relationships are the same and each individual divorce or separation is different whether amicable or not. The important thing is to seek professional advice early so that the right course of action can be agreed which will hopefully have the least emotional impact, especially where children are involved.

“There are more ways to divorce consensually than ever before with mediation and collaborative law certainly becoming more popular. There is a growing emphasis from courts, judges, marriage counsellors and most importantly our clients on resolving disputes out-of-court where possible and many couples prefer this approach at the outset.”
Alison Hawes, Partner

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Divorce and Family Law.