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The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released its latest figures on divorce in England and Wales. The data shows that there was a surge in new divorce applications in 2019 of over 18% compared to the previous year. This is believed to be the sharpest rise in divorce cases in nearly 50 years.

There were 107,599 divorces between opposite-sex couples, the highest number in five years. This equates to 8.9 divorces for every 1,000 married people, a rate that was just 7.5 in 2018. There were also 822 divorces recorded between same-sex couples. This represented a huge rise of nearly 50% compared to 2018.

The 2019 increase is certainly surprising, as divorce numbers have generally been on a downward trend for a number of years. According to the ONS report, this is partly because fewer people are getting married in the first place. It states:

"Changes in attitudes to cohabitation as an alternative to marriage or prior to marriage, particularly at younger ages, are likely to have been a factor affecting the general decrease in divorce rates since 2003."

What caused the 2019 rise in divorces?

These startling new figures beg the question – what happened in 2019 to cause so many marriages to fall apart?

According to the ONS, the explanation could actually be very simple. It could all be down to an administrative issue.

The ONS has said that at least part of the increase could be attributed to a casework backlog in 2018. This would make divorce cases lower in 2018 and higher in 2019, with many divorces from 2018 only being recorded in the following year’s figures.

The report stated:

"The size of the increase can be partly attributed to a backlog of divorce petitions from 2017 that were processed by the Ministry of Justice in early 2018, some of which will have translated into decree absolutes (completed divorces) in 2019.”

Another divorce spike on the horizon

Due to the intense pressures of 2020 during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, another sharp increase in divorce cases is almost certainly on the way. Numerous lockdowns, restrictions and hardship are bound to have exacerbated existing marriage problems.

The charity Citizen’s Advice saw a significant increase in searches for divorce guidance on its website as early as April 2020. And in September, this rise in searches was 25% higher than the same time in 2019.

But if you’re facing marriage problems, you don’t have to go through it alone.

Get in touch with Wirral divorce solicitor Tracey Miller Family Law and we can help you arrange mediation and counselling, as well as reliable, practical divorce advice if you need it. Call us on 0151 515 3036 or contact us online – we’re here to help.

Prenuptial disagreement

Young is now claiming that she was pressured into signing prenup documents in 1996. In legal documents obtained by the entertainment website TMZ, she said:

"I was extremely reluctant, resistant and afraid to sign the agreement and felt backed into a corner. Given the extraordinary pressure and intimidation by Andre, I was left with no option but to hire a lawyer (of course, with the help of Andre's team of professionals) and unwillingly signed the agreement very shortly before our marriage."

Young went on to say that after the couple had been married for 2 years, her husband changed his mind about the prenuptial agreement: 

“Andre acknowledged to me that he felt ashamed he had pressured me into signing a premarital agreement and he tore up multiple copies of the agreement in front of me. Since the day he tore up the agreements, we both understood that there was no premarital agreement, and that it was null and void.”

This version of events is being disputed by Dr. Dre, who claims he never said the prenuptial agreement was invalid or tore up any papers.

What will happen next?

Attorneys acting for Young want a court to take a closer look at the prenup, which stipulates how the couple’s $800 million+ net worth will be divided. Dr. Dre has already agreed to pay spousal support.

Her legal team claims they have not been given access to the prenuptial documents, which could raise questions as to whether or not the agreement is valid. This, according to celebrity divorce specialist Judith Poller, means that it is likely that a hearing and trial separate to the divorce will be set. However, she believes Young’s claim about pressure to sign and the subsequent ripping up of the legal documents is weak in terms of the law. Speaking to TMZ, she explained:

“There’ve been very few instances where [prenups are] overturned, and the fact that somebody might say during the marriage, when in their happiest moment, ‘I’m sorry I made you go through this process, and I’m gonna rip it up,’ means absolutely nothing.”

“It’s like the dog ate my homework. It just doesn’t work,”

In the eyes of some legal experts, this is a bold but perhaps far-fetched gambit on the part of Young to renegotiate the original prenuptial agreement.  Keep an eye on our blog for more developments in this high-profile case.

And if you need help with divorce or prenuptial agreements, especially if there are complicated financial arrangements to resolve, call Liverpool divorce law specialist Tracey Miller Family Law on 0151 515 3036 for a free initial consultation.