Rising divorce rates and ‘no-fault’ divorces will increase demand for legal support, warns Birketts

Georgia Butterworth, a Solicitor in Birketts’ Family Team. Image credit:  Carl Middleditch at Bushfire Photography.

Birketts’ Family Team is warning 2021 could see a surge in demand for legal advice after figures showed there were more than 100,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2019.

This figure from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the highest for five years and an increase of 18.4% from 2018, with 107,599 opposite-sex couples and 822 same-sex couples divorcing last year. This has pushed the rate of divorces from 7.5 per 1,000 in 2018 to 8.9 in 2019, however some of the growth can be attributed to divorce centres processing a backlog of casework from 2018. While there has been widespread reporting of an increase in family law enquiries during the coronavirus lockdown, the ONS figures are yet to assess its impact on the number of divorces in 2020.

The most common reason cited on the divorce petition for opposite-sex couples was that of unreasonable behaviour, with 49% of wives and 35% of husbands divorcing on these grounds. Similarly, it was also the most common reason for divorce among same-sex couples with 63% of divorces among women and 70% of divorces among men.

Georgia Butterworth, a Solicitor in Birketts’ Family Team (pictured), said: “Rising divorce numbers, combined with changes in legislation and a move towards online systems, will only increase the demand for specialist advice from dedicated family lawyers. The introduction of the “no-fault” divorce next autumn, under which parties will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, is likely to compound this need as couples navigate uncharted territory in marriage law.

"These figures are a stark reminder that divorce is now more prevalent than ever and the ability to access good quality family law advice is invaluable.”

The ONS also provided statistics relating to the average length of a marriage. For opposite-sex couples at the time of divorce in 2019, this was 12.3 years, a small decrease from 12.5 years in 2018.

Image credit:  Carl Middleditch at Bushfire Photography.


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