statistics divorce

Lies, More Lies and Statistics?

Divorce is in the news again. Two stories on divorce statistics published recently seem to contradict each other when considering the rates of divorce. So are Divorce rates up or down?

Mixed Messages

Divorce Statistics published in the latest ONS bulletin covering the whole of 2017 show that:

  • The number of divorces between opposite sex couples has dropped to the lowest level since 1973 after the latest ONS bulletin covering 2017 which showed a 4.9% drop on 2016.

    Commenting on the figures, Nicola Haines of the Office for National Statistics, stated that

    “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. However, among older people rates are actually higher in 2017 than in 1993 – perhaps due to the fact we have an increasingly ageing population and people are getting married later in life.

    The number of divorces among same-sex couples more than trebled between 2016 and 2017 – although this is not surprising since marriages of same-sex couples have only been possible in England and Wales since March 2014.”

    Other notable figures contained in the bulletin are:

    • 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.


    You can read the full set of figures on the ONS website.


Divorce Petitions in The Family Court

But in a more recent report, the Family Court has a different take on the Divorce Statistics:

The latest Family Court Statistics published covering April to July 2018 show:

  • There were 32,230 divorce petitions made during April to June 2018, up 18% from the same quarter in 2017 – the highest quarterly figure since the start of 2013, following a long period of stability around 28,000 petitions per quarter.

    In contrast, there were fewer 22,637 decrees absolutes granted in April to June 2018, down 15% compared to the same quarter in 2017.

    These statistics make an interesting comparison with the just published divorce figures for 2017 (reported here) that saw a drop of nearly 5% in divorces between opposite-sex couples.

    The report also shows that timeliness of these petitions is suffering. For those granted decree nisi in January to March 2018, the average time from the date of petition was 28.1 weeks, whilst the average time from petition to decree absolute was 54.4 weeks, the highest figures so far respectively for the periods covered by this bulletin.

    Other notable insights revealed are that:

    • the total number of case start rose 7% to 68,141
    • the number of Domestic violence remedy order applications increased by 1% compared to the equivalent quarter in 2017, whilst the number of orders made increased by 4% over the same period.
    • there were 13,437 new Private law applications in April to June 2018, up 3% on the equivalent quarter in 2017
    • it took on average 26 weeks for Private law cases to reach a final order, i.e. case closure, up 3 weeks on the same period in 2017
    • the proportion of disposals where neither the applicant nor respondent had legal representation was 38%, an increase of 21 percentage points since April to June 2013. Correspondingly, the proportion of cases where both parties had legal representation dropped by 16 percentage points to 19% over the same period


    The full report can be read on the website.


Drilling Down into Divorce Statistics

It just goes to show that you can interpret statistics in whatever way suits the argument you are seeking to make. At Paradigm Family Law, we drill down into the evidence on all aspects of divorce and financial proceedings. Our Award winning fixed fees are a paradigm shift in the market for funding divorce and financial cases and we have continued to buck the trend when it comes to offering innovative solutions to your divorce and family matters.


If you would like more details on this or want to discuss your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact James,  Frank or Evelyn. Paradigm Family Law offers a free initial consultation and our fixed fee solutions cover financial proceedings from start to finish. You can call us on 01904 217225 or email us to [email protected].

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