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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.

Divorce Law Solicitor

At Tracey Miller Family Law, our expert divorce solicitors understand how difficult a separation can be for everyone involved. The emotional trauma of assessing the impact a divorce may have upon matters such as children, finances, home, pensions as well as shared assets can leave you feeling drained and exhausted.

Our friendly yet professional approach to divorce law helps to alleviate this whirlwind of emotions, helping you find the quickest, least acrimonious, and most economical way through a divorce.

Did you know that Tracey has been through a divorce herself? She says: "No-one can really say they know how you feel unless they have been through it themselves. I can honestly say that having been through a painful divorce myself that I do, which always puts my clients at ease. I can empathise with their situation and fully understand the emotional as well as the legal implications."

For more information, or to speak to one of our expert divorce law solicitors today, please read our divorce FAQ's or call us on 0151 515 3036.

What does the law say?

Current UK divorce law is detailed in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The law allows only one ground for divorce in England and Wales – the couple in question must demonstrate that their marriage has 'Irretrievably Broken Down'.

Your divorce law solicitor will advise you on the best way to prove this in court, based on the reasons you give for the breakdown of your marriage. One of five facts set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 may be relied upon to prove the irretrievable breakdown, depending on your individual circumstances. These are:

  • Adultery: your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them.
  • Unreasonable behaviour: your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.
  • Desertion: your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition.
  • Two years separation with consent: you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition and your spouse consents to a decree being granted.
  • Five years separation: you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.

On dealing with a petition for divorce, the court has various powers regarding the two parties' finances and children; these powers will be explained to you by your divorce law solicitor.


At Tracey Miller Family Law, we’re the only Family Law solicitors in Liverpool and the North West to offer a seven-day-a-week service. For more information about UK divorce law or to speak to a friendly, sympathetic divorce solicitor, then please call us on 0151 515 3036 or fill out our ‘Call Back’ form.