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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.

Pre-nuptial/Cohabitation Agreements

Tracey Miller Family Law specialises in providing expert legal advice to couples ready to take the next step in their relationship. With over 25 years of experience, we’ve established ourselves as one of the top family law firms in Liverpool and the North West.

Cohabitation/pre-nuptial agreements that are amicably arranged early on can reduce emotional and financial challenges later, in the event of relationship breakdown. To find out how we can help you, why not call us on 0151 515 3036 or 07795 060 211? Alternatively, you can fill out our ‘Call Back’ form and we’ll call you back at a time that’s more convenient for you.

What are cohabitation agreements?

Are you thinking about cohabitation? If so, seeking family law advice to fully understand your rights as both an individual and couple is a sensible thing to do. We know how exciting it is to move in with that special someone, but now is the most opportune time to seek legal advice regarding what happens if the relationship does unfortunately break down. There are certain steps which can be taken to avoid unnecessary acrimony regarding property and assets on the breakdown of the relationship. This involves entering into a cohabitation agreement which clearly sets out the division of assets and belongings.

What are pre-nuptial agreements?

Are you planning to get married or enter a civil partnership? Congratulations! Whilst it may not be the first thing on your mind, now’s the best time to obtain some information about securing any assets/wealth you own. Again, there are steps which can be taken to safeguard pre-owned assets and avoid unnecessary disputes following the breakdown of the relationship. These are called pre-nuptial agreements, or prenups, for people who are going to get married and pre-registration or pre-partnership agreements for future civil partners.

What does the law say?

Whilst pre-nuptial agreements have never been legally binding in the UK, they are increasingly being upheld in court due to them becoming more ‘mainstream’. The law for deciding financial settlements is in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and nowhere in this section are pre-nuptial agreements mentioned. However, in October 2010 the world of family law was changed forever with the landmark decision by the Supreme Court, in the case of Radmacher (German) and Granatino (French). The Supreme Court in effect held that in future, pre-nuptial agreements WILL BE upheld by the family courts on divorce unless they are considered unfair.

For any further information regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’d be more than happy to share our expert knowledge on pre-nuptial/cohabitation agreements.