Latest Stats Show Increase In Divorces, But Experts Say Not All As It Seems
A big rise in divorce rates is not all as it seems family lawyers say, as new statistics show a big jump in the amount of divorce petitions last year.
The Office of National Statistics today (17 November) released its annual divorce stats, which showed an 18.4% increase in divorce petitions for 2019 in comparison to the previous year, with 107,599 opposite-sex couple divorces. The ONS says the increase ‘partly reflects divorce centres processing a backlog of casework in 2018’.
Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason chosen for divorcing couples, with 49% of women and 35% of men citing divorce on these grounds, though the need for laying blame at the other party’s feet will soon be eliminated with the introduction of no-fault divorce.
There was also a small decrease in the average length of a marriage from 12.5 years in 2018 to 12.3 years in 2019.
Expert family lawyers at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell say the rise is not all as it seems due to a few extenuating circumstances – and we may see a true rise in divorce rates after the pandemic.
Expert Opinion: “These stats are a little misleading as they don’t truly reflect a divorce boom - yet. Family lawyers are very busy at the moment, but it’s for different reasons – the first being because of the influx of Children Act cases from the first lockdown, and the second dealing with the backlog from the courts.
“This being said, the next year or so may bring a boom because of coronavirus and the effect of lockdown. We didn’t see a rise in divorce petitions after the first lockdown because there was a sense of ‘holding it together’, whether that be supporting a spouse through bereavement or wanting to keep things the way they are until a sense of normality came back.
“This second lockdown is a different story – we’re facing a long winter, a difficult Christmas period after being cooped up for months, and resilience is waning. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a so-called ‘divorce boom’ after this is over.
“There’s also the issue that while no-fault divorce has been introduced in law, it hasn’t been introduced in practice yet because of delays from the pandemic, so many will be holding on until that finally becomes a reality to issue divorce proceedings. In 12 months’ time, the stats will likely show a different story to now.” Zahra Pabani - Partner