Recent statistics have revealed that the number of couples getting divorced in England and Wales increased by almost a fifth in 2019 – rising to the highest level since 2014.
The official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that there were 107,599 opposite-sex divorces in 2019, an increase of 18.4% from 2018 figures.
There was also a big uplift in the number of same-sex divorces, with 822 taking place in 2019 compared to 428 in 2018.
On a percentage basis, the ONS said that the 2019 figures showed the largest overall increase since 1972, when the recent introduction of the Divorce Reform Act 1969 made it easier for couples to divorce.
These figures, of course, do not take into account couples that have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many predict a further surge in divorce figures for 2020/21 as the effects of lockdown and the various pressures felt by couples begin to filter through.
Although there are no official figures to date, a survey by the UK charity Relate found that nearly a quarter of people felt lockdown had placed additional pressure on their relationship. A further survey by the charity in July reported that 8% of people had made the decision to end their relationship due to issues arising from the pandemic.
It is also interesting to note the reasons given on divorce petitions in the 2019 statistics. Unreasonable behaviour was the most commonly cited reason, being used by 49% of wives and 35% of husbands in heterosexual marriages and in 63% of female same-sex divorces and 70% of male ones.
From autumn 2021, when “no-fault” divorce is set to be introduced, couples will only have to state that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. It is unclear what impact this will have on the number of divorces that take place; although some predict the changes will reduce the stigma involved with divorce and therefore lead to an increase. Regardless, many within the field see the move as a positive step; reducing the so-called ‘blame game’ and therefore some of the potential for animosity during the divorce process.
With changes in the law afoot, the need for reputable family law advice remains paramount. And as the stresses and strains of Covid-19 continue to be felt by couples, having a family lawyer’s advice so that you know where you stand from the outset can help to secure your position as you move forward in the divorce process.
Anthony Jones is head of Family Law at O’Donnell Solicitors and can be contacted on 01456 761320 or 07444582804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
O’Donnell Solicitors are offering virtual consultations by phone or video call and are also seeing clients at a safe social distance by appointment in our Covid-secure offices.