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Divorce Rates on the Rise

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Divorce rates have risen – The office for National Statistics has this month released figures showing that last year, divorces in England and Wales rose to the highest numbers since 2009. There were 106,959 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2016, an increase of 5.8% compared to 2015. This is the biggest annual rise in the number of divorces since 1985, with women initiating the majority of proceedings at 61%.

So what grounds are people relying on for divorce?

In 2015 the highest number of divorces were among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 30 to 39. The most common reason for divorce was unreasonable behaviour, with 51% of all women and 36% of men citing it in their divorce petitions with the least common reason being desertion. The law states that parties seeking a divorce must rely on one of five grounds in accordance with section 2 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 if they wish to make an application for a divorce, the five grounds being as follows:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery                                            
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation with consent
  • 5 years separation without consent

Unreasonable behaviour is clearly the most attractive option to divorcing couples and for those who would rather not have a public record of adultery, adulterous behaviour can also be covered under the scope of this ground.

With divorce rates soaring the question on many people’s lips is why, why are more and more people in England and Wales getting divorced?

Although nobody can ever fully know the answer to this question, many including Chris Sherwood (chief executive of the charity Relate), speculate that this could be as a result of growing household debt and a stagnating pay growth. Broadly speaking, it is fair to say that other than disputes in relation to children, the vast majority of household arguments are as a result of money struggles and financial disagreements, disagreements that become even more prominent during the divorce process.

Alarmingly, these increasing statistics only take into account divorcing couples and do not consider cohabitating couples that are separating when realistically, it is the high break-up rates among couples who do not marry and therefore do not divorce that are dragging England and Wales to the bottom of the family stability league. However frustratingly, these are much harder to count.

What the future holds for divorce rates is yet to be seen. Will the trend continue to increase or will it begin to plummet as a growing number of couples stray away from tying the knot? Whatever the future may hold, it is important that both married couples and couples about to engage in marriage are aware of the legal significance of their actions.

If you need any legal advice on your rights in relation to initiating divorce proceedings or any issue surrounding the financial aspects of family law, please contact family law specialists Maguire Family Law by email kathryn.wilson@family-law.co.uk or telephone:

Wilmslow 01625 544650

Knutsford 01565 648228

London     0207 947219

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: james.maguire@family-law.co.uk or telephone:

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