Worrying signs as divorce numbers rise even before lockdown tsunami hits

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Divorce figures for England & Wales surprisingly rose sharply during 2019 according to latest figures published.

In the latest report published by the ONS*, 107,599 same-sex couples divorced in 2019 an increase of 18.4% from the previous year and the highest figures since 2014. The increase is also the largest percentage increase in divorces since 1972 and the introduction of the Divorce Reform Act (1969). Breakdowns in same-sex divorces also continued to rise with 822 couples divorcing, nearly twice the number (428) in 2018.

Whilst the increase is in part due to additional processing of cases in 2018, the figures nevertheless represent a worrying trend with commentators already predicting a further significant rise due to Covid-19 factors.

Fiona Apthorpe, Family Law Partner and Divorce specialist at Geldards commented;

“It is widely recognised that the pandemic has created quite unprecedented strains on relationships during 2020. Job insecurity, money worries, general anxiety and the strain of being locked up with little or no respite has all taken its toll on couples. We are seeing a significant increase on the numbers of couples seeking legal advice for divorce as well as conveyancing instructions as properties are sold.”

With the average length of marriage at over 12 years, and as such defined as “long marriages”, they are frequently complicated. Whilst the Government is planning to introduce a “no fault” divorce option, this is still not available, and the process is still frequently distressing for all parties involved – especially when children are involved.

Fiona continued:

“At the moment unless they separate for 2 years and agree to divorce (5 years if one does not agree) then in order to divorce either one spouse has to allege adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion by the other. We do still stress that couples consider the exceptional circumstances they, and everybody has faced in 2020 and to consider couples or family mediation wherever possible”.




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Fiona Apthorpe


Partner, Derby

+44 (0)1332 254 124