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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 latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed in 2015, a total of 23.8 million people, or 50.6% of the total population over the age of 16, were married. This is a noticeable drop when compared to 2002, when 54.8% of people were married.

In line with this, it was also found that between 2002 and 2015, the number of adults who described themselves as ‘single’ increased from 29.6% to 34.5%.

Rise in cohabitation

The drop in the number of couples choosing to get married also coincides with figures showing that cohabitation is on the up. Over 28.4 million people lived with their partner without being married, according to the ONS figures for 2015. This represents 60.5% of the UK’s population over the age of 16, and considerably higher than the 50.6% couples who live together and are married.

As for why these changes have taken place, there are several possible factors to take into account. The economic recession may put some couples off spending so much money on getting married (the average cost of a wedding in 2014 was £20,983, according to a survey by the You & Your Wedding bridal brand), with some preferring to save up for a first home together instead. The UK is perceived to be more secular than it once was, and young people are also enjoying more non-traditional relationships.

Do cohabiting couples have enough protection if they separate?

While there are many different legal protections in place for separating married couples, the same can’t always be said for cohabiting couples – which could leave people at risk if they co-own properties or have children and don’t have a UK partnership law expert in their corner.

Commenting on the new ONS statistics on Family Law Week, Graeme Fraser, the spokesperson for family law organisation Resolution, said:

"These statistics should be regarded by policymakers as a wake-up call that cohabitation is a trend of modern society that is not going to go away. As family lawyers who see the damage caused by the lack of protection for cohabiting couples when they separate, Resolution calls for the urgent introduction of safety net legislation providing legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple's separation, particularly for children and mothers left vulnerable under the existing law.

"In light of the latest ONS data, reform of the law for cohabiting couples should be one of the top priorities for the new Justice Secretary."

If you need expert advice on any aspect of family law, from divorce to your rights in relation to property, assets and custody of dependants if you are cohabiting and you separate from your partner, get in touch with the leading divorce solicitors in Liverpool, Tracey Miller Family Law.