The latest official figures show a total of more than 100,000 divorces in England and Wales last year. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 107,599 opposite sex couples divorced last year, up 18.4% on the 90,871 divorces recorded in 2018.
This increase in the divorce rate reflects in part divorce centres working through a backlog of cases from the previous year. Looking at the number of divorces completed last year as a proportion of married opposite-sex couples, the divorce rate rose to 8.9 per 1,000 married men and women, up from 7.5 a year earlier.
For same-sex couples last year, there were 822 divorces in England and Wales. This was nearly twice the total number as a year earlier, with nearly three-quarters of the same-sex divorces between female couples.
The top reason cited for divorce last year for opposite-sex couples was unreasonable behaviour, with 49% of wives and 35% of husbands petitioning for divorce on these gounds. Unreasonable behaviour was also the most common reason for divorce for same-sex couples, with 63% of divorces among women and 70% among men citing this reason.
In 2019, the average duration of a marriage which ended in divorce was 12.3 years for opposite-sex couples, down slightly from 12.5 years a year earlier.
Kanak Ghosh, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, Office for National Statistics, said:
“Same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014. Since then, we have seen the number of divorces of same-sex couples increase each year from very small numbers in 2015 when the first divorces took place, to more than 800 in 2019, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population in England and Wales.
“While we see that 56% of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples. Unreasonable behaviour, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.”
Commenting on the latest divorce statistics, Clare Moffat, head of intermediary and technical development at Royal London, said:
“Today’s figures show an uptick in the number of divorces though they still remain well below the highs we saw in 2003.
“While pensions can be the largest asset in a divorce, they are not shared as frequently as assets such as property and investments.This can have an enormous impact on the future financial resilience, particularly of women. This can be even worse at or in retirement where one spouse hasn’t worked for many years and so taking financial and legal advice is crucial.”
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