Much has been made of recent Office of National Statistics data, which shows that applications for divorce in the UK have dropped significantly. In fact, figures show that divorce petitions in the UK are at their lowest level in 48 years. However, there are differing opinions on why the divorce rate in the UK has declined, including the latest on no fault divorce…
(1) Divorce in the UK is dropping because of… the no fault divorce bill
Following the announcement of the UK General Election, the no fault divorce bill was dropped. Changes to divorce in the UK, in the form of no fault divorce, had been making progress in Parliament. However, the ongoing Brexit saga and the outcome of the election means that the no fault divorce law has stalled.
As a result, some family law specialists argue that couples looking to divorce are waiting for the law to change in order to finalise their separation amicably, rather than trying to force through a divorce under the current system, which requires one party assigning blame to the other party for the failure of a marriage.
(2) Divorce rates are in decline because… fewer people are getting married
It’s possible, because cohabitee living is rising, divorce in the UK is declining because fewer people are getting married and are instead living together before committing to marriage.
There’s an argument that people are also getting married later in life, with a more mature mindset, which is contributing to marriages lasting longer. Recent statistics in the UK show that the average marriage now spans 12.4 years.
(3) Divorce applications are falling because of… a backlog at divorce centres
It’s no secret that divorce centres across the UK are under immense strain, largely due to funding cuts, leaving departments overworked and understaffed. Inevitably, this has led to huge delays in processing divorce petitions, consent orders, applications for financial orders and more.
The ONS itself has said that divorce in the UK is dropping because of administrative backlogs, which means that divorces are not getting finalised or people are aware of the administrative issues and aren’t filing petitions because of the wait times.
Divorce in the UK… What’s the outlook?
90,871 heterosexual couples divorced in 2018, representing a drop of 10.6% compared to 2017. This trend correlates with the decline in marriage rates since 1989.
The ONS has specified that the administrative backlog is the most likely cause of the decline in divorce in the UK, but expects that 2019 figures will be up to 8% higher because of divorce centres working through the backlog. The ONS expects this rise to translate into a higher number of completed divorces.