Weekly Family Law Update November 28, 2020

Divorce statistics and support for abuse victims

Latest divorce statistics published

The Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) has published its latest statistics for divorces in England and Wales, for the year 2019.

The main points were:

1. That there were 107,599 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2019, increasing by 18.4% from 90,871 in 2018 The ONS states that the scale of this increase partly reflects divorce centres processing a backlog of casework in 2018, which is likely to have translated into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.

2. That the divorce rate among opposite-sex couples in 2019 increased to 8.9 divorces per 1,000 married men and women aged 16 years and over from 7.5 in 2018 The ONS states that again this increase will have been impacted by the additional processing of casework in 2018.

3. That there were 822 divorces among same-sex couples in 2019, nearly twice the number in 2018 (428 divorces). Of these, nearly three-quarters (72%) were between female couples.

4. That unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2019 with 49% of wives and 35% of husbands petitioning on these grounds. It was also the most common reason for same sex couples divorcing, accounting for 63% of divorces among women and 70% among men.

5. Lastly, that in 2019, the average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 12.3 years for opposite-sex couples, a small decrease from 12.5 years in the previous year.

Kanak Ghosh, of the Vital Statistics Outputs Branch at the ONS, commented:

“Same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014. Since then, we have seen the number of divorces of same-sex couples increase each year from very small numbers in 2015 when the first divorces took place, to more than 800 in 2019, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population in England and Wales.

“While we see that 56% of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples. Unreasonable behaviour, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.”

Funding boost for victims of rape and domestic abuse

The Government has confirmed a major funding boost for victims of rape and domestic abuse, as services face dealing with greater demand this winter.

Nearly £11 million will go towards a range of services offering practical and emotional help – allowing organisations to recruit more staff, adapt to remote counselling methods during the pandemic and keep helplines open for longer.

A further £7 million will go towards a range of innovative programmes aimed at perpetrators designed to prevent domestic abuse from happening in the first place.

The announcement comes as charities have reported a sharp increase in demand during the pandemic, including a 46% rise in calls, with some victims feeling at greater risk of harm or deciding to report abuse for the first time.

In addition, victims of all crimes will benefit from a clearer set of rights regarding the support they should receive from the police, courts and other criminal justice agencies. The new Victims’ Code sets out 12 key overarching rights, and will come into force on the 1st of April 2021.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC MP said:

“Nothing will detract from our support for victims and their needs will continue to be a priority long after this pandemic.

“This funding will make sure that vital help is always available for those who need it, while our new Victims’ Code will ensure their rights are recognised at every stage of the justice system.”