Divorce rates have fallen by 30% according to the Official for National Statistics (ONS).
ONS statistics released this morning have revealed that the number of divorces granted in 2022 fell by 29.5% to 80,057, in comparison to the previous year’s 113,505 divorces. This is the lowest number since 1971.
Family lawyers have widely been anticipating an increase in divorce rates and enquiries. Whilst the statistics have come as a surprise, it is not so surprising when examining the impact of various factors which have caused such a significant decrease in divorce rates.
The introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022 is likely to have had a significant impact on the overall divorces granted. Although some couples were waiting for no-fault to be introduced, which removed the need to attribute blame, to proceed with their divorce and there was a surge in enquiries at this point, no fault divorce introduced mandatory waiting periods. It is likely that these extended periods meant that fewer divorces were actually granted in 2022.
In addition, the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that 2021 saw a 9.6% increase in the number of divorces on 2020’s figures. The pandemic caused significant disruption to the family courts, meaning fewer divorces were processed that year. However, whilst the pandemic and lockdowns continued through 2021, the family justice system introduced remote hearings and more divorces were granted. Thus, in comparison to 2022, it is possible that this was artificial inflation caused by a surge in 2021.
However, the drop in rates in 2022 is so dramatic in comparison to both 2021 and 2020 figures that this cannot be explanation on its own.
The impact of the cost-of-living crisis is being cited as a key reason for the downward turn as many couples who were wanting to separate postpone their divorce for cost reasons. As gas and electricity prices soared, food, bills and housing all increased and money did not, and has continued to not, stretch as far. Worries over future finances and going from a dual income household to a single income household was at the forefront of many couples’ minds.
Here at Stowe Family Law, we conducted a survey on the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on relationships. 30% of respondents said that they were staying in their current relationship because of fears they could not afford to live alone.
In addition to these factors, ONS reported last month that marriage rates in England and Wales had fallen below 50% for the first time since comparable records began. Only 49.4% of adults over 16 were reported to be married or in a civil partnership in 2022. This has direct links to the number of divorces as without marriage there can be no divorce.
Family lawyers will be interested to see over the coming years whether the decrease in divorce rates is an ongoing trend, or whether they are a direct result of the economic and social factors of the last few years.
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