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Latest Divorce Statistics Only Tell Half The Story, As No-Fault Laws Begin To Filter Through

The latest divorce statistics released today via the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show a continuing fall in the number of divorces and civil partnership dissolutions – but this doesn’t tell the whole story.

While it may be expected that divorce numbers would rise with the introduction of no-fault laws in 2022, a technical quirk of timing means that many no-fault divorces won’t be recorded in these figures and will likely be included in the next batch of statistics for 2023 instead.

There were 80,057 divorces granted in England and Wales in 2022, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show, marking an almost 30 per cent decrease compared with the 113,505 granted in 2021. The number of civil partnership dissolutions fell to the lowest recorded since 2010.

It’s notable from the statistics released today, that the divorce and civil partnership dissolution rates continue to fall, now to their lowest level since 1971. 

Whilst it is difficult to say precisely why that might be, it is unlikely to be because more people want to stay married!  

No-fault divorce was introduced on 6 April 2022 to try and encourage more amicable separations and many divorcing couples chose to wait for the new legislation before issuing proceedings.  As a result of the new 20 week waiting period between the application for divorce and applying for the conditional order (the first of the two divorce orders), followed by a minimum of 6 weeks before applying for a final divorce order, it is very likely that most divorce applications begun after April 2022 will therefore not result in a final order before 2023. 

This is particularly the case since many divorcing couples wait to sort out financial matters before they apply for final divorce orders. It is therefore likely that the figures for 2023 will see a spike in the number of divorces in that year before settling back to the normal downward trajectory.  

The ONS itself has also noted that the lower numbers in 2022 may partially reflect the introduction of new minimum waiting periods, meaning that divorces applied for after 6 April 2022 may take longer to reach final order.

Another reason for the likely decline is that marriage rates have consistently fallen over recent years. With less people marrying it is to be expected that less people will divorce and that both rates will steadily fall over the coming years.            

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