Divorce Rates Rise – What Will 2021 Bring?

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We hear so often that the New Year brings with it a surge in the number of people separating and seeking a divorce.  After the strains of 2020, it would hardly be surprising if this is a trend we see all the more as we enter 2021 but recent statistics show we have already seen a dramatic increase in divorces in recent times.

Figures recently released by the Office of National Statistics revealed a huge increase of 18% in the number of divorces that were completed in 2019 with figures for 2020 still to come.  It should be borne in mind that the higher number of completed divorces in 2019 does in part reflect the backlog in the casework of the court in 2018, a year that saw the lowest number of divorces for 50 years.  Despite that, it seems clear that the number of divorces in 2019 did rise dramatically and it seems likely they will rise even further in this forthcoming year.

During 2019, 107,599 opposite-sex couples sought a divorce, compared to 90,871 in 2018, an increase of 18.4%.  Amongst same-sex couples, rates almost doubled from 428 divorces in 2018 to 822 in 2019.  Same-sex couples became able to marry in 2014 and since 2015, when they were first able to obtain a divorce,  the number of divorces in this category has increased year on year.  It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that the biggest increase proportionately was in this group as the number of same-sex marriages increases along with the duration of those marriages.

At the current time, all divorces in the UK are based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage proven by one five specific facts, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation and consent, desertion or five years separation.  The Office of National Statistics revealed that during 2019 unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason cited on the divorce petition.  Many couples aren’t willing to wait for a period of two years before beginning the process of divorce, there has been no adultery and therefore the only option available is unreasonable behaviour.

It was announced in 2020 that the law relating to divorces would change and that the UK will move to a ‘non-fault’ based system.   It is anticipated that parties will no longer need to give a reason why the marriage has irretrievably broken down, with the changes expected to take effect from the Autumn of 2021.  That, coupled with the strain placed on relationships by the current pandemic, make it extremely likely that 2021 will see divorce rates raise even further.

Non-fault divorces are something that many family law practitioners have campaigned for over a significant period and their introduction will certainly bring a positive change to the system.  If you need any advice in relation to the current system or the changes that are to be introduced, please contact Jackie or Sarah on 01903 229999 or info@bennett-griffin.co.uk.

Disclaimer: Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.