New Research Shows One In Five Couples Argue Regularly Or Consider Separating

Family Law Expert Says Research Highlights A Public Misconception About Divorce


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Family law experts from Irwin Mitchell said new research suggesting that one in five (18%) couples in the UK argue regularly or consider separating, highlights the public misconception about divorce.

The study by charity Relate was based on a survey of 20,980 people in relationships from 2013-15, and suggested 2.87 million people in the UK were in "distressed" relationships.

The research was based on figures taken from the Understanding Society survey which asked people about the extent of their unhappiness, how often they considered divorce or regretted the marriage and how frequently they argued.

Dr David Marjoribanks, from Relate, said that constant bickering could have a "far-reaching" impact on children who may not do as well at school or end up engaging in antisocial behaviour and even criminality.

The study suggests that 18% of married or cohabiting couples, were living in "distressed" relationships, where the conflicts were assessed by counsellors to be to be "clinically significant.”

The number of “distressed” relationships peaked between 2011-2012 and has failed to return to pre-recession levels, the figures showed.
The research also found:

  • One in 10 partners reported at least occasionally regretting getting married or living together, while 9% said they at least occasionally considered divorce or separation.
  • Nearly half (49%) of partners reported at least occasionally quarrelling, with 6.8% reporting severe levels.
  • Parents of children under 16 were slightly more likely to be in distressed relationships (22%), and becoming a parent for the first time was "one of life's events most likely to reduce relationship quality."

The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show there were 114,720 divorces in England and Wales in 2013, down 3% on 2012. The number of divorces was highest among men and women aged between 40 and 44.

Teresa Davidson, Partner and family law expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said she had not noticed any fall in the number of relationships ending and that there was a public misconception about family law being a “distress service.”

Expert Opinion
We have not seen any fall in the number of relationships breaking down. More often these are cohabiting couples now, however, which reflects that they are the fastest growing family type and the fall in divorce numbers.

As family lawyers, we are often seen as a “distress” purchase. On the contrary we find that in reality the clients who approach us find it a huge relief to get some expert advice on what is going to happen to them as a result of the breakdown of their relationship.

The lack of knowledge of family law is huge and having someone on your side who has the expertise in this can be hugely reassuring. They are often a long way into a difficult journey when we meet them and getting them to a better place is the most satisfying part of the job.
Teresa Davidson, Partner