Court Delays Cause Lowest Divorce Figures Since 1971?


The divorce figures for opposite-sex couples have dropped to the lowest number since 1971. This is according to ONS figures released on 29/11/2019. These figures give us food for thought.

On the face of it, this is excellent news and it has seen some mainstay media outlets proclaim that it is an indication of a shift in society, with many now choosing to stick with their marriages. It is a beautiful outlook but the more pessimistic side of me points at the fact that such outlets normally take a ‘headline-grabbing’ approach. This can sometimes lead to the main points being lost in the mire or misunderstood.

What are the Main Points Regarding Divorce Figures?

  • There were 90,871 opposite-sex divorces in 2018. This is a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017 and is, in fact, the lowest number since 1971;
  • The average duration of marriage was 12.5 years;
  • There has been an increase in the number of same-sex divorces from 338 in 2017 to 428 in 2018. Did you that the number of divorces for same-sex couples has increased each year since the introduction of marriages for them;
  • As expected, unreasonable behaviour continues to be the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2018 (nearly half of all petitions). The fact of two years of separation (26.8%) with consent was the second most popular. The order thereafter was five years’ separation (16.1%), adultery (10.1%) and desertion (0.8%).

Analysis of Reasons for the Decline in Divorce Figures

The decrease in divorce figures for same-sex couples decreasing is positive. However, there is also the headline-grabbing issue of backlogs being suffered by the divorce centres. In the last two years, I have had clients across England & Wales. This has allowed me to see the distinction between working practices and the varying lengths of backlogs.  I see no value in hollering about these issues. I note that whilst changes are being made, the staff in place are trying their best to deal with the huge demands of the legal sector.

This being said, I am well aware of the backlogs and the impact on divorce figures. As standard, I raise these with clients to manage their expectations. I mean we live in a media world of ‘quickie divorces’ – which of course are a misnomer when referring to our current system.

The average divorce is said to take 4-6 months. This is conservative, especially when considering common issues and backlogs.

Due to backlogs, we have seen that divorce petitions have increased by 8% in 2018. The delay caused has seen a five-week increase to the average time taken from the date of the petition to decree absolute. Therefore, remember that the number of completed divorces will increase in 2019 when compares to 2018.

Other Important Reads

Have you had the chance to read my following articles:

  1. “OMG! BEST DIVORCE EVER” SAYS NO ONE…EVER! Divorce 101 Back To Basics– Free Divorce Guide for Challenging Times
  2. No! You Can’t See the Kids at Christmas! 
  3. Tips: Agreeing on Christmas Contact

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