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26 SEP 2018

Divorce rates fall to their lowest level since 1973

Divorce rates fall to their lowest level since 1973

According to the Office of National Statistics report “Divorces in England and Wales: 2017”, released earlier today, divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in England and Wales are at their lowest level since 1973, which is around forty per cent lower than their peak in 1993.

Other key points from the report include:

  • There were 101,669 divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales in 2017, a decrease of 4.9% compared with 2016, but similar to the number seen in 2015 (101,055).
  • There were 338 divorces of same-sex couples in 2017, more than three times the number in 2016 (112 divorces); three-quarters (74%) of same-sex couples divorcing in 2017 were female.
  • In 2017, there were 8.4 divorces of opposite-sex couples per 1,000 married men and women aged 16 years and over (divorce rates), representing the lowest divorce rates since 1973 and a 5.6% decrease from 2016.
  • The divorce rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 years and women aged 40 to 44 years.
  • The average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 12.2 years for opposite-sex couples; this matches the high last seen in 1972.
  • Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds; it was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 83% of divorces among women and 73% among men.
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In response to the report, Ros Bever, National Head of Family Law at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth said:

“The latest ONS stats on marriage and divorce in England and Wales reflect trends that are in line with what the family law sector has seen in recent years. Divorces have dropped almost 5% from 2016 to 2017 and on the whole divorce rates for heterosexual couples are at their lowest since 1973. There are many couples who choose to cohabit instead of marry, and we have several times mentioned the woeful lack of provision in the law for cohabiting couples. The number of such couples cohabiting rises every year; they may well be put off by the formality of marriage but they are left with little legal protection available to them if their partner dies or in the event of a break-up. A review of the Cohabitation Bill, which was first introduced in 2008 but never made it past the early stages of parliament, is well overdue.”

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