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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.

Cohabitation

Lots of couples live together by way of cohabitation. Sadly, cohabitees do not yet have the same, or indeed similar, rights as married couples upon breakdown of their relationship. Thus, there is no such thing as the “Common Law Marriage”. It is a much believed myth!!

Three things which a couple who are contemplating living together should consider are:

  1. How any property purchased should be held – There are various ways property can be held by owning parties, and so advice upon this should be sought regarding this before any purchase takes place. Also, should one party bring property into the relationship, advice should be sought before this property is transferred into joint names. Most cohabitee disputes relate to property ownership.
  2. Making a Will - This may help ensure that your share in any property purchased and also your personal items etc are left to the person/s of your choice.
  3. Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement/Living Together Agreement – This can help regulate the relationship whilst is subsists and can also assist with division of assets and belongings etc should the relationship breakdown. At present such Agreements are not legally binding, but do give an indication to the Court of the parties’ intentions at the time the Agreement was entered into.

Considering the above may help avoid the difficulties that numerous people suffer when their cohabitation comes to an end.

Should you require further advice regarding entering into cohabitation, or indeed upon the breakdown of a cohabitation, please do not hesitate to contact us.