Court delays blamed for lowest Divorce rates in almost 50 years

Court delays blamed for lowest Divorce rates in almost 50 years

The divorce rate for opposite-sex couples has dropped to its lowest rate since 1971 according to a recent report by the Office for National Statistics.

The Office for National Statistics has noted that the drop in the divorce rate for opposite-sex couples is partly due to the administrative backlog at the Family Court.  In recent years, the Family Court has suffered from closures and funding cuts and the remaining Courts are overworked and understaffed. The average time taken to finalise a divorce in 2018 was 54.3 weeks, which is a 5 week increase on 2017.

There were 90,871 divorces for opposite-sex couples in 2018, a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017.  The average duration of marriage for divorcing couples in 2018 was 12.5 years.

In contrast, the number of divorces among same-sex couples has increased year on year since the introduction of marriages for same-sex couples.  There were 428 divorces for same-sex couples in 2018 which was an increase of 338 in 2017. Of the 428 divorces, three quarters were female couples.

The statistics also cover the facts on which couples had relied on to divorce.  Unreasonable behaviour was the most common fact relied on by opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2018 and accounted for almost half of all divorces in that year.  Two years’ separation with consent was the second most common fact and accounted for 26.8% of divorces.  Five years separation with consent accounted for 16.1% of divorces and most of the remaining divorces were granted on adultery, desertion and a combination of two or more grounds. 

Many couples considering divorce have been left in limbo by the possibility of a no-fault divorce becoming available at some point in the future.  It is anticipated that once this reform comes in, there will be an influx of couples wishing to rely on it, as at present, the only way to divorce on a non-contentious basis is to have been separated for a period of at least two years.

If you would like any further information on the contents of this article or family law, in general, please contact Sarah Scriven on 01494 478684 or at