How common is divorce in the UK?

By Glossy Magazine

How common is divorce in the UK?

How common is divorce in the UK?

How common is divorce in the UK?

Many marriages fail to work out and it’s not uncommon for couples to file for divorce in the UK. There are many reasons that contribute to separation including adultery, financial issues, domestic violence and simply growing apart.

Divorce rates have also changed over time and certain areas of the country experience higher numbers of marriage breakdowns than others.

We’ll explore the historic and current rates of divorce and delve into the contributing factors that affect the statistics.

What is divorce?

Divorce is the term used when a couple legally ends a law-binding relationship (marriage or civil partnership). If you’re separating, it’s important to work with family law solicitors to ensure the process is handled properly and within the legal framework. You’ll need to apply for a divorce via the court through a conditional order, then receive a final order before you’re classed as legally separated.

History of divorce

Before 1857, only men were granted a divorce and, even then, it was considered a concept only for the rich. After that time, women could apply for a divorce citing adultery but had to prove other faults at the same time. From 1937, divorce was granted for a wider range of reasons and the Divorce Reform Act of 1969 meant marriages could be dissolved after two or five years of separation.

This likely explains why divorce rates before this time were relatively rare, with just one in 450 marriages ending legally between 1900 and 1910.

Divorce Reform Act 1969

This was seen as a pivotal moment in the history of divorce as it allowed couples to separate, regardless of whether one party was at fault. Couples were able to cite “irretrievable breakdown” as a reason for separation and, if both partners were in agreement, they could apply for a divorce after two years apart. If only one party wanted to legally separate, then the time period went up to five years.

Naturally, this caused an uptick in marriages ending in divorce as it enabled those who were unhappy in their partnerships to end them without jumping through many legal hoops.

Divorce rates today

A change in societal expectations and greater equality also contributed to a greater divorce rate, with numbers peaking in the early 1990s at around 180,000 per year in the UK. 2022 saw the lowest number of divorces since 1971 with just over 80,000.

The reasons for the sharp drop can be attributed to the fact that fewer couples choose to marry and, instead, cohabit without making their relationship legally binding.

Where is divorce most common?

Statistics also show that the divorce rate differs across the country with Norwich having the highest figures at just over 12%, while the home counties experience the lowest rates of divorce.

While the legal framework around divorce has changed significantly throughout the years, it’s still as important as ever to carefully consider the decision to separate and seek advice when it comes to factors such as finances, children and dividing the estate.