Law Group

  Separation and Marriage Breakdown



Divorce Statistics 2008 UK

Almost half of all marriages in England and Wales will end in divorce if current trends continue, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday. The bleak forecast, coming after a report on Wednesday showing the number of marriages in 2006 was the lowest for 110 years, appeared to confirm a pattern of social upheaval.

Download divorce statistics 2008...

pdf correction on divorce from National Statistics

The number of divorces in England and Wales has fallen to a 29-year low, government figures showed today.

This was the third year in succession that the number fell, and followed a drop of 6.5% between 2005 and 2006.

The divorce rate also hit its lowest level for 22 years: 12.2 divorces for every thousand married couples. It had fallen by 7% between 2005 and 2006.

Andrea McLaren, the head of the London Matrimonial Practice division of chartered accountants Grant Thornton's, said: "The number of high-profile, big-money divorce cases seen through the courts recently, combined with an increasing number of couples cohabiting, could be the key factors behind the lowest divorce rate in England and Wales in the last 22 years.

Family lawyers suggested the drop could be down to record divorce settlements deterring people from breaking up, or from getting married in the first place.

Last year 132,562 couples divorced - the least since 1977 when there were 129,053 divorces, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

"These high-profile cases could be acting as a deterrent to both those considering leaping into marriage and [those] contemplating divorce - particularly given the high financial payouts handed out by the UK courts."

Julian Lipson, a partner in the family law team at Withers LLP, added: "Recent headline-grabbing, multi-million pound divorces have made many potential spouses, particularly the wealthier ones, more hesitant to tie the knot and there has been an exponential rise in the number of pre-nuptial contracts we are seeing, where couples of unequal wealth do decide to marry."

The falling number of divorces mirrors the decline in marriage over the past decade. The marriage rate in England and Wales in 2005 fell to its lowest level since records began in 1862.

The highest divorce rate was found among people in their late 20s, with 26 divorces per thousand married men aged 25-29 and 27.3 per thousand women in the same age group.

But the average age of people divorcing was higher: 40.9 years for women and 43.4 for men.

The number of second-time divorcees has doubled in the last 25 years. Last year they constituted one-fifth of divorcees, compared with one-tenth in 1981.

The average duration of failed marriages remained unchanged from the previous year at 11.6 years.

The number of divorces in Scotland rose by nearly 20% from 10,940 in 2005 to 13,014 last year. The ONS said the sharp rise could be due to reduced periods couples are required to be separated before divorce. Under the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, couples who mutually agree can divorce after a year apart instead of two. Contested cases can go ahead after two years rather than five.

In Northern Ireland the number of divorces rose by 8.6% to 2,565 last year, compared with 2,362 in 2005.

More than two-thirds of divorces were granted to wives and in more than half these cases the husband's behaviour was proven to have been unreasonable.

The fall in divorces in England and Wales was set against rising numbers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Across the UK, the number fell by 4.5% to 148,141, compared with 155,052 in 2005.



This page last updated: