Top Line Facts – Marriages and Divorces

The following facts about marriages and divorce are the latest available and are sourced from The Office for National Statistics – Marriages and Divorces in England and Wales. You cannot go to a better source of information and a vast amount of information is available. If you wish to look deeper then follow the link below

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/datalist

  • 42% of marriages end in divorce
  • Almost half of divorces involve children under 16
  • 66% of divorces were on the petition of the wife
  • 16% of marriages reach the 60th wedding anniversary
  • There were 90,871 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2018, a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017 and the lowest number since 1971.
  • The divorce rate among opposite-sex couples fell to 7.5 divorces per 1,000 married men and women from 8.4 in 2017, the lowest rate since 1971.
  • The average duration of marriage among opposite-sex couples who divorced in 2018 was 12.5 years.
  • There were 428 divorces of same-sex couples in 2018, increasing from 338 in 2017; of these, three quarters were among female couples.
  • Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2018, with 51.9% of wives and 36.8% of husbands petitioning on this ground; it was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing.
  • The number of divorces of opposite-sex couples decreased to the lowest level since 1971 decreasing by 10.6% to 90,871, compared with 101,669 in 2017. This decrease partly reflects the overall trend seen in recent years, but it can also be attributed to a particularly low number of divorce petitions processed in 2017, which then reached decree absolute in 2018. The 2018 backlog of work also resulted in a five-week increase to the average time taken from date of petition to decree absolute in 2018 (to 54.3 weeks). As a result, the number of completed divorces is likely to increase in 2019 compared with 2018.
  • Changes in attitudes to cohabitation as an alternative to marriage or prior to marriage, particularly at younger ages, are likely to have been a factor affecting the general decrease in divorce rates over the last 25 years. Over this period, levels of cohabitation increased so that by 2016, almost 9 in 10 couples (88%) were cohabiting before marriage.
  • Marriage rates have more than halved since the 1960s and 1970s. 22% of marriages that took place in 1965 had ended by their 20th wedding anniversary. By 1995, this had increased to 38% of marriages ending in divorce after the same length of time. 11% and 25% of marriages that took place in 1995 had ended by their 5th and 10th anniversaries respectively. Data indicates that only 6% of marriages that took place in 2013 had ended by their 5th anniversary and 19% of marriages that took place in 2008 had ended by their 10th anniversary.
  • The average (mean) age for divorce among opposite-sex couples in 2018 was 46.9 years for men and 44.5 years for women. This continues a year-on-year increase in average age for divorce since 1985, increasing by over nine years for both men and women.
  • The number of divorces of same-sex couples has increased each year since the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples In 2018, there were 428 divorces among same-sex couples in England and Wales, increasing by more than one quarter (26.6%) from 338 in the previous year. Of these, three-quarters (75%) were among female couples, a similar proportion to that seen in 2017.
  • The median duration of marriage for same-sex couples who divorced in 2018 was 3.9 years for men and 3.5 years for women.
  • The average (mean) age for divorce for same-sex couples who divorced in 2018 was higher for male couples (40.7 years) than female couples (38.3 years). This may reflect that male couples tend to be older when they marry compared with female couples. The latest marriage statistics for 2016 show that the average ages for marriage for male and female same-sex couples were 40.8 and 37.4 years respectively.
  • Unreasonable behaviour was the most commonly used ground for divorce by both opposite-sex and same-sex couples and accounted for nearly half (46.3%) of all divorces granted; 46.1% opposite-sex couples and 76.2% of same-sex couples divorced for this reason.
  • 262,399 new cases started in family courts during 2018, up 3% compared to 2017. 64,331 of these cases started between October and December, up 6% on October to December 2017.
  • There were 118,141 divorce petitions made during 2018, up 8% on 2017 – more in line with the number of petitions seen annually prior to the low number in 2017. There were 91,961 Decree Absolutes granted in 2018, down 11% compared to 2017 (reflecting the low number of petitions in 2017).
  • There were 25,135 domestic violence remedy order applications, up 1% on 2017, the highest figure since the peak in 2009. The number of orders made also increased, by 4% over the same period. In October to December 2018, the increase in applications and orders were 6% and 5% respectively compared to the same period in 2017.
  • Following the fall in divorce petitions in 2017, there were fewer cases reaching decree nisi (91,559) and decree absolute (91,961) in 2018, down 12% and 11% respectively. For those granted Decree Nisi in 2018, the average time from the date of petition was 29.1 weeks, whilst the average time from petition to Decree Absolute was 54.3 weeks, both up 5 weeks compared to 2017.

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