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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.

A study by Zurich Insurance found that divorced people are twice as likely to have no savings as married people, and the team at Wirral divorce lawyer Tracey Miller Family Law regularly provide advice on pre-divorce finances to those worried about losing out or missing something important.

Here are just a handful of the finance essentials you may need to check if you’re getting divorced:

1. The division of your respective pension pots

So many couples forget to look at pensions – often the second biggest shared asset you own after property – and how they will be divided following divorce. There are lots of ways of splitting a pension, so it’s a good idea to talk over and understand the options with a divorce specialist or financial advisor.

2. Your life insurance policy and will

If you don’t make adjustments to policies like life insurance that name your ex-partner as beneficiary, your partner could still benefit from them after you separate.

The same goes for your will. It’s an interesting quirk of the law that any will you make before you get married becomes void when you do tie the knot, but the same thing doesn’t happen again when you divorce. It’s up to you to change the terms and beneficiaries of your will yourself, so make sure you contact a family law solicitor to update it as soon as possible.

3. Your credit score

If you and your spouse have a lot of shared and joint assets, you’ll need to start thinking about the health of your own credit score as an individual once you separate. You don’t want to find yourself rejected for mortgages, loans and other credit due to a poor score. Think about closing joint accounts and opening new ones under your own name, taking all the usual measures to build up a healthy credit report.

4. Tax issues

When you’re married (or in a civil partnership), you don’t have to pay capital gains tax when transferring assets between you and your spouse. When you are divorcing, you shouldn’t leave it too long to transfer any assets or you could both lose out. Speak to a specialist for more advice, but you can usually transfer assets without capital gains tax liability within the confines of the tax year (provided you’ve lived together at some point in that same tax year).

For advice on all matters relating to divorce and your finances, no matter how large, small or complicated, please contact Wirral divorce solicitor Tracey Miller Family Law on 0151 515 3036 and we’ll be happy to help.