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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.

Tracey's Top Tips: Family Law Advice

1. Decide what you want.

This may sound obvious but it is not always easy to make the decision that you want a divorce. At TMFL whilst we can advise you on all the legal implications we cannot make the decision to end your marriage for you. We advise that you see a Counsellor to help you come to that decision. We can give you names of Counsellors and then when you have decided we will be there to deal with the legal consequences.

2. Explore all your options.

When you are considering a divorce we at TMFL fully believe that you should know what all your options are and how they will affect you and your family. This is why we offer an initial no time limit free consultation so that we can answer all questions you have concerning finances or children.

3. Use a Resolution Lawyer

We at TMFL are all members of Resolution which was formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association. All members of Resolution follow a code of conduct and are committed to dealing with family law issues in a non confrontational way to make things as easy as possible for the couple and their children. Tracey Miller is currently Chair of Resolution Merseyside. For further information on Resolution go to the Resolution website: www.resolution.org.uk

4. Do what your Lawyer asks you to do.

At TMFL we strive to keep your costs as low as possible, so if we ask you to provide us with information or documents then please do so. This will mean that we do not have to send off for information or documents e.g., your marriage certificate on your behalf which will save time and money for you.

5. Look at your Finances.

Now is a good time to review your financial position. Establish what assets you have in your name, what assets are joint and try to remember what your spouse’s assets are. The more information you can give your solicitor the better. Again at TMFL we try to minimise the cost of divorce, and having this information to hand can help to reduce the time spent establishing the financial facts, which will result in lower legal fees.

6. Always act in your Children’s best interests.

Even though the breakdown of your relationship is painful, don’t use your children as weapons to hurt your spouse. Remember it is not their fault and they are suffering too. Try not to have heated arguments in front of them and avoid being disrespectful about your spouse in front of them, remember it is still their mum or dad! At TMFL, we are very aware of the distress caused to children during the divorce process, and always look for ways to minimise this.

7. Look after yourself.

This is an extremely stressful time so look after your emotional as well as your physical health. See your GP and continue with your Counsellor to help you get through this time.

8. Every divorce is different.

Whilst friends and family may have been through a divorce, remember all divorces and financial settlements are different. At TMFL we tailor make our advice to suit your individual circumstances and to give you the best possible outcome.

9. Take Precautions!

Protect your assets should anything happen to you before your divorce and financial settlement is concluded. This includes making a will or a new will, severing the joint tenancy in respect of any jointly owned properties, change your nominated pension beneficiary in respect of your pension and ensure that the overdraft on any joint account is either removed or capped.

10. And for Next Time...

Before you enter into another relationship consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement if you are going to live together or a Pre- Nuptial Agreement if you are going to get remarried.

If you would like to speak to a Tracey Miller Family Law solicitor please do not hesitate to contact us.