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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.

Unsurprisingly, the survey from Co-op Legal Services found that an affair with someone else was the top reason for couples splitting up. 44% of women named an “inappropriate relationship with someone else” as the main reason for marriage breakdown, while 42% of men opted for the second reason on the list, “growing apart”.

The full list, as published by Good to Know, is as follows:

  • 1.An affair with someone else
  • 2.Growing apart
  • 3.Falling out of love
  • 4.Not finding a partner attractive anymore
  • 5.One spouse wanting children, the other not
  • 6.Work commitments putting a strain on the relationship
  • 7.Drug or alcohol abuse
  • 8.One party wanting to relocate to somewhere else
  • 9.Having nothing left in common
  • 10.Illness

Some may be surprised to see that money worries were not on the list, often cited as a key trigger for relationship breakdown. As many divorce solicitors, including Wirral family law experts Tracey Miller, will tell you after years of experience, anxieties over money and debt can often put undue strain on a relationship and can push many couples to breaking point.

Women taking the lead on initiating divorce

The study also found that 58% of women said that they had initiated divorce proceedings, compared to just 33% of men. Male respondents also found it more difficult to come up with a definite reason why their marriage had ended, and indeed – respondents of each gender came up with very different reasons for their divorce.

The Co-op Legal Services’ Tracey Moloney commented on the survey findings, saying:

“It's interesting that whilst a fifth of divorcees bring up the divorce conversation together, two fifths find it difficult to agree reasons for their divorce.

“Divorce is such a personal and unique decision between two parties and it's important that both parties come to the table and talk openly and honestly about their reasons for wanting to divorce. In my experience, this makes for a more amicable divorce and avoids the situation turning hostile later down the line.”

The study looked at how stressful people found the divorce process, with the results highlighting the time it took to go through proceedings as the most difficult part for 20% of people. 17% disliked the confrontational nature of divorce, while 16% named the reactions of family members as the most painful part of the process.

Believe it or not, the divorce process doesn’t have to be a nightmare to go through. With an expert helping to smoothly guide you through proceedings and fight your corner, it can be more straightforward than you expect. Get in touch with Liverpool divorce solicitors, Tracey Miller Family Law, for honest, expert advice and support.