Divorce Rate UK [21+ Mind-Boggling Facts & Stats]

Fact-checked

More marriages end in divorce now than ever. Although the divorce rate UK has registered is on the decline, divorce stats are still a cause for concern. If you’ve ever wondered how many people get divorced, why they do so, or who is most likely to get a divorce, read these interesting stats to get an idea of the current state in the UK.

Divorce Rate UK: Fascinating Facts

  • 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce.
  • The divorce rate has been falling since the 1980s.
  • Women petition more than half of all divorces (62%).
  • The average duration of marriage before divorce for opposite-sex couples is 12.3 years.
  • Unreasonable behaviour is the most common cause of divorce.
  • The pandemic caused a 95% increase in divorce inquiries.
  • Divorce Day is known as the day with the most divorces – the first working Monday after Christmas.
  • Millennials are less likely to get divorced than their parents.
  • Up to 9% of the British public is considering divorcing their partner at any time.
  • The UK has the lowest divorce rates in Europe.

Divorce by Numbers

The UK divorce rate has been a hotly debated topic in recent years. We can speculate as much as we want, but stats don’t lie – this is exactly why we gathered the most important stats that display the real divorce situation in Britain

#1 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce

(Crisp&Co)

42% of all married couples in England and Wales end their marriage in divorce; according to the latest statistics, this is roughly 108,421 couples. Between the total number of divorces, 107,599 were opposite-sex divorces, while 822 were same-sex divorces. Among same-sex divorces, the majority (72%) were between female couples. This leaves large numbers of people that have to deal with getting over a break-up

#2 11% of all divorces are second ones for one partner

(Crisp&Co)

Divorce statistics for the UK show that 39% of divorced couples are first-time divorcées. Among 11% of couples, at least one partner has been divorced before; in 5% of cases, both parties had been previously divorced

#3 Over 30% of long marriages end in divorce

(NimbleFins)

It’s often believed that a long marriage means that there’s no possibility of divorce; although this might have been true in the past, divorce rates are changing. Facts about marriage confirm that over 30% of marriages that cross the 30-year mark end in divorce, and the rates have been climbing since 1993!

#4 The average opposite-sex marriage lasts 12.3 years

(ONS)

The average length of marriage in the UK is 12.3 years for opposite-sex couples, a small decrease from 12.5 years in 2018. For same-sex couples, the average duration of marriage is 4.1 years for women and 4.3 years for men.

After a divorce, most people go back to dating. This can be especially difficult after a long commitment, so they have to learn to date anew. The most popular way to meet new people after a divorce is by using free sites for dating.

#5 England has the lowest divorce rate in Europe

(Marriage Foundation)

Divorce rates across Europe are falling; currently, the divorce rate in England is the lowest in Europe. For couples married in 2002, the divorce rate was 28.1%, while couples married in 2017 had a projected divorce rate is 22.5%.

Why Get a Divorce?

Finding love is difficult, but getting divorced is no walk in the park. There are numerous reasons why someone might get divorced. Once you’ve seen the stats on the number of divorces and realise how many marriages end in divorce, you might be curious about the cause of divorce. We decided to look into the most common reasons listed on divorce papers to see if there’s a recurring pattern. 

#6 The most common cause of divorce is unreasonable behaviour

(NimbleFins)

Almost half of all divorce papers, at 46.5%, listed unreasonable behaviour as the cause of divorce. The second most common cause is a 2-year separation with consent, and the third is adultery (10.5%).

#7 Obtaining a divorce without consent is possible after five years of separation

(BBC)

People that want to divorce have to list one of the three offered reasons: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or desertion. Other reasons for divorce in the UK include a consensual 2-year separation. If someone wants to obtain a divorce without their spouse’s consent, they have to live apart for five years

#8 The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 95% increase in divorce enquiries

(Independent)

Divorce enquiries rose by 95% within a year! From March 2020 to March 2021, law firms recorded a staggering 95% increase in divorce enquiries. Three-quarters of couples that had a change in marital status during this period (separated or divorced) said that they didn’t consider divorce before the beginning of the pandemic

#9 60% of divorces used fault-based grounds

(BBC)

UK divorce statistics show that 60% of all petitions listed fault-based grounds for divorce. Out of these, 70% said that these grounds made the divorce process more bitter, 21% said it’s more difficult to sort out child maintenance, and 31% said that the financial settlement is more complicated

#10 Divorce Day is the day with the largest number of divorce petitions

(Evening Standard)

The first working Monday after Christmas is dubbed Divorce Day; the largest number of divorce petitions are recorded on this day. Even though this may seem strange, the reasons behind it are quite understandable. Money troubles after the holiday break, with the added stress of creating the perfect Christmas, help encourage couples to petition for divorce. The divorce rate in the UK for 2021 increased by 230% in the first week of January alone! 

Who’s Getting Divorced?

We’ve established how many people get a divorce in the UK, as well as the most common causes behind one. But divorce is more common in some groups than others – let’s see which people are getting divorced the most!

#11 62% of opposite-sex divorces were petitioned by the wife

(ONS)

Most divorces (62%) among opposite-sex couples were petitioned by the wife. Wives have petitioned for the majority of divorces in the UK since 1949, reaching a peak in 1972 at 72%

#12 People over 40 are more likely to get divorced

(Crisp&Co)

The divorce rate in the UK is highest among the over-40 population – the divorce age bracket is 47.7 years old for men, who get divorced between the ages 45 and 49. Even though women are most likely to get a divorce between 45 and 49, the average age for divorce is 44.5 years old, indicating that slightly younger women are getting divorced. 

#13 Divorce rates are declining for young people

(NimbleFins)

Divorce rates among people under 35 have been declining since 1993, the year with the highest divorce count in UK history. Back then, the divorce rate among couples under 35 was 3%today it’s only 1%.

#14 Women in their late 20s are likely to get divorced

(Rainscourt)

The percentage of divorce in the UK is highest among the young female population. For married women aged 25-29, the percentage is 23.6 per one thousand of the married population – more than twice the national average. 

#15 Millennials divorce less than previous generations

(Rainscourt)

The Millennial generation is seeing lower divorce rates than previous generations – a Millennial is half as likely to get a divorce than their parents. For Millenial men, the divorce rate is 8%, with 11% for Millenial women. Men and women from the previous generation were at 20% and 23%, respectively. 

#16 More divorces are granted to men than ever before

(Rainscourt)

Divorce stats for the UK reveal that the number of divorces granted to men has been rising steadily since 1985. The numbers in 1985 stood at 27.8%, while today this number is at 35.2%

Facts You Might Want to Know About Divorce

We covered all the most important stats on divorce so far, but we singled out some other facts that we think might be of interest! 

#17 Couples that married in 1987 have the highest cumulative divorce rate

(NimbleFins)

Couples that tied the knot in 1987 have the highest cumulative divorce rate44% of marriages from this year ended in divorce by 2017! In recent years, the divorce percentage for UK accumulated divorces has been going down, but that’s no surprise since fewer years have passed from entering marriage to the current day. 

#18 59% of marriages are first-time marriages for both parties

(Rainscourt)

Today, only 59% of all marriages are the first marriage for both spouses, as opposed to 90% of marriages in 1970. The number of marriages where both parties have been previously divorced is 14%

#19 The base cost of divorce is £593

(Gov.co.uk)

If you want to get a divorce in the UK, you’ll have to pay a fee to the government. The cost of a divorce in the UK is £593, but additional costs for legal fees or mediation may apply depending on the cause of the divorce. 

#20 9% of the UK population are considering divorcing their partner

(Withers Worldwide)

More than 2 million Brits (9% of the population) are seriously considering divorcing their partner. The most likely time to consider divorce is between 11 and 19 years of marriage67.6% of people that have been married for over ten years have considered divorce at one point or another. 

#21 Southampton residents are most likely to consider divorce

(Withers Worldwide)

82% of married couples in Southampton have considered divorce, separation, or annulments at some point due to lack of communication – higher than other divorce rates in the UK. 88% of Belfast residents cited arguments as the main reason for dissolutions, Glasgow residents cited physical violence, and Londoners considered divorce due to change of sexual orientation or gender. 

#22 Divorce rates are higher among couples with large age gaps

(Irish Times)

Couples that are more than 20 years apart in age have a divorce rate of 6%, while couples closer in age rate at 3% – the larger the gap, the higher the likelihood of a break-up. A civil partnership is also less likely to succeed if people have a significant age gap between them

Wrap Up

The divorce rate UK registered in 2021 marked an all-time low, but the marriage rates are low as well. Many people opt for cohabitation instead of marriage, and the dissolution of these relationships is not entered in official statistics. Divorce rates are still concerning, but projections show that better days are coming for the institution of marriage.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I've loved writing since I can remember, and back in high school, I started loving psychology as well. So I majored in it while dabbling in spirituality and yoga on the side.

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