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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 Miller Family Law: Glossary of Legal Terms

Our family law glossary of legal terms aims to provide potential and current clients alike with a greater understanding of the legal terms involved in family law.

If you would like to speak to a family law solicitor about a potential case, or simply require more information about a specific area of family law, feel free to contact us via telephone or e-mail.

Divorce Glossary

- To formally end a marriage
- The party applying for the divorce
- The party receiving the divorce
- The application to the court to end a marriage
Certificate Of Reconciliation
- the document a solicitor must file with the court, informing the court whether the petitioner has been advised about a reconciliation and whether they have been given the names of any counsellors.
Acknowledgement of service
- The document the respondent returns to the court when they have received the divorce petition.
Decree Nisi
- The first court order regarding the divorce.
Decree Absolute
- the final court order regarding the divorce and ending the marriage.

Finance Glossary

Form A
- The application to the court for a financial order
Form E
- The financial statement that provides information about a party's finances.
Form H
- The costs schedule that must be filed before a court hearing.
- The first directions appointment.
- The financial dispute resolution hearing.
Final Hearing
- The court decides the financial settlement between the parties if matters have not been resolved.
The Former Matrimonial Home
- The last family home where the parties lived together as husband and wife.
Periodical Payments
- Regular maintenance payments from one party to the other.
Lump Sum Provision
- A capital payment from one party to the other.
Property Adjustment/Transfer
– A transfer of a property from one party to the other, most often being the former matrimonial home.
Pension Share
- An order transferring part of one party's pension fund to the other.
Consent Order
- An order setting out the financial settlement that the parties have agreed on.
Statement of Information
- A summary of the party's finances. This must accompany a consent order to court.

Children Glossary

Child Arrangement Order

- This includes provision for where and with whom a child lives or visits

Specific Issue Order
- An order determining a specific issue, for example: where a child will go to school.
Prohibited Steps Order
- An order preventing a party taking a particular action with a child.
Parental Responsibility
- The rights, duties and obligations that a parent has towards their child and their child's property.
Parental Responsibility Agreement/Order
- An agreement or court order conferring parental responsibility on one of a child's parents.

Miscellaneous Glossary

Judicial Separation
– Legal separation of a married couple.
Decree of Judicial Separation
- A decree of legal separation removing the duty to cohabit.
Civil Partnership
- Same sex marriage.
- Divorce for civil partners.
Decree of Dissolution
- A decree of divorce for civil partners.
- People who live together but are not married.
Cohabitation Agreement
- An agreement between cohabittees regarding what will happen to their property and assets should their relationship breakdown.
Pre- Nuptial Agreement
- An agreement between people who are planning to marry, before the marriage, dealing with what will happen to their assets should their marriage breakdown.
Post- Nuptial Agreement
- An agreement between people after their marriage, dealing with what will happen to their assets should their marriage breakdown.
Pre – Registration Agreement
- An agreement between a same sex couple who are planning to enter into a civil partnership, before the civil partnership, dealing with what will happen to their assets should their civil partnership breakdown.
Separation Agreement
- An agreement between people who are going to be voluntarily separated dealing with what will happen on separation.
- The solicitors family law association.
Non- Molestation Order
- An order preventing a person from harassing, molesting or interfering with another.
Occupation Order
- An order capable of forcing someone to leave a property, usually the former matrimonial home.
Joint Tenancy
- This describes a property held in joint names, meaning the right of survivorship applies.
Tenancy in Common
- A property is held in joint names but the right of survivorship does not apply.
- A legal document which allows people to leave their assets to beneficiaries of their choice.