The number of couples getting divorced in England and Wales surged by almost a fifth in 2019 to the highest level in five years according to figures released by The Office of National Statistics.

Data shows that there were 107,599 opposite-sex divorces in 2019, an increase of 18.4% from 90,871 in 2018 – the highest since 2014, when 111,169 were granted. There were also 822 same-sex divorces, nearly twice the number (428) in 2018.

Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason (‘fact’) for divorce, cited by 49% of wives and 35% of husbands in heterosexual marriage, in 63% of female same-sex divorces and 70% of male ones.

The latest figures come as family lawyers have predicted a “post-lockdown divorce boom” amid warnings the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to put a strain on relationships.

The charity Citizens Advice said divorce guidance searches had risen since April after a drop in visits when lockdown started. It said views of its divorce webpage on the first September weekend were up 25% compared with the same date in 2019.

Sarah Laughey, Head of private Family Law at Ison Harrison said

“Unfortunately lockdown has caused extra pressure and anxiety for some families. My team and I can provide advice on a wide range of issues including divorce and separation, domestic abuse and issues with regard to children including grandparents’ rights and financial provision. We offer a discreet and professional service and work with our clients to get the best possible solution.”

Going forward, the introduction of the “no-fault” divorce next autumn, is also expected to result in a further growth in the number of divorces. Currently in order to divorce, either spouse has to allege adultery, unreasonable behaviour, a period of separation of at least 2 years, or desertion. The “no-fault” divorce will mean that from next Autumn spouses will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably rather than apportioning blame or awaiting a 2 year separation period.

Sarah, like many experienced family law practitioners, welcomes the “no fault” divorce development.

Sarah explains:

“It is difficult enough for couples to take the significant life step of divorcing, after deciding that their marriages have broken down irretrievably.  To then have to set about a position of determining blame against the other is unnecessarily stressful.  The no fault divorce will allow couples to conclude their marriages far easier whilst maintaining a sense of dignity for all involved.”

Regarding the pandemic, Sarah says:

“The year we have all experienced will have led to inevitably strain on marriages, and some couples will have decided that there is no way back for them.  When the time is right for them post-pandemic, the divorce process should hopefully be that much more straight-forward given the “no fault” legislature change.”

Please get in touch with Sarah Laughey or her team on 01943 889107 for a confidential initial discussion about the steps involved to commence the divorce process.