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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.

The fear of costly divorces has tempted many to take advantage of new online £50 ‘DIY’ divorces, where no solicitors are involved. It’s only natural to want to avoid unnecessary legal bills and save money, but could these no-frills divorces actually end up costing more in the long run?

DIY divorcees report spouses ‘coming back for more’

One family lawyer, Victoria Walker from Simpson Millar, has warned that her practice has seen a surge of spouses asking for more money after the divorce has been finalised, and sometimes being successful in their claims.

Walker explained to AOL Money:

"With no legal expertise to hand, thousands of couples made the fatal error of assuming that all ties were cut once the divorce was finalised. That's sadly not the case and the ghosts of marriage past are now coming back to haunt them in rather costly and unpleasant dramas."

Had a windfall? Make sure you’ve severed all financial ties to your ex-spouse

Over the summer, Simpson Millar has encountered many cases where a couple has been through an online divorce without any financial agreements in place. They may simple have legally separated without any thought to financial arrangements, or have signed a consent order. Following the divorce, perhaps many years down the line, one party has then been contacted by their ex-spouse after coming into a large amount of money – with their former partner putting in a claim for a share of the cash. Ms Walker offers some examples:

"Former couples who haven't signed an agreement regarding their finances during the divorce risk having to share any wealth and fortunes accrued since then. We have seen examples of former spouses coming back to claim half of the other person's recent lottery win, inheritance or business success. Legally, they are entitled to do that if the couple didn't make formal financial arrangements at the time of the divorce – a rather unpleasant surprise for some."

Other DIY divorce risks

As well as leaving yourself vulnerable to post-divorce claims from your former spouse, there are other risks of DIY divorces that separating couples need to be aware of. These include:

  • Not completing the process properly – the last thing you want is to re-marry and end up being accused of bigamy!
  • Not understanding the value of joint assets – so you end up with less than you are entitled to
  • Using the online divorce process when your case isn’t suitable

On this last point, if you’ve got complicated financial or family affairs, it is virtually impossible to negotiate an agreement everyone is happy with using the DIY online divorce process. You absolutely need an expert to help you. If this sounds like your situation, get in touch with leading solicitors in Liverpool Tracey Miller.