Review of the latest ONS statistics

Sital Fontenelle
Head of the Family & Divorce
Kingsley Napley

The latest ONS statistics show that the number of people divorcing is at the lowest rate since 1971.

There has been a 29.5% decrease in divorces in 2022 compared with 2021. There were 78,759 opposite-sex divorces, which is a decrease of 29.6% from 2021. Same-sex divorces also decreased, to 1,298 in 2022 representing a decrease of 17.4% compared to 2021.

Interestingly the median duration of marriage at divorce was 12.9 years for opposite sex couples, a fractional increase compared with 12.3 years in 2021. For same-sex divorces in 2022, the median duration of marriage was 7.5 years for male same-sex couples and 6.3 years for female same-sex couples.

As the Government press release suggests, the declining divorce rate can perhaps partly be attributed to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, effective from April 2022 which introduced new mandatory waiting periods during the divorce process.

Undoubtedly, however, there are also societal trends going on. The cost-of-living crisis may have deterred some couples from divorcing, although based on our experience of the 2007 financial crisis, this will probably mean divorces are delayed rather than decided against altogether. Recorded divorces are happening later and after longer marriages, but at the same time cohabitation is on the rise for younger couples.

Despite today’s figures, the fact is divorce and separation still affect many couples and families. We continue to see this in our work although increasingly clients are willing to mediate or explore alternative forms of dispute resolution to agree terms both financially and for the sake of their children. The good news is that there are now a variety of ways to go about that depending on the circumstances and how couples wish to approach such a significant event.

More articles by Sital Fontenelle.

Sital Fontenelle

Sital Fontenelle is the Head of the Family & Divorce team at Kingsley Napley. She specialises in the complex financial aspects of a divorce, negotiating and drafting of nuptial agreements as well as private children law cases. She typically acts for high-net-worth individuals, often on cases involving an international dimension, offshore trusts, family businesses, inherited wealth or asset tracing. She is also highly experienced in complex children cases. Sital is an active member of the Resolution Cohabitation committee and regularly speaks at international conferences on wealth protection and trusts. She is a recognised leader in her field in legal directories, including the Chambers Ultra High Net Worth Guide, Legal 500 UK, Chambers UK (finance and children) and Spears. As well as being ‘Recommended’ in the Spear’s 2023 Family Law Index, she won silver in the Woman of the Year – Future Leaders (Partner) category at the Powerwomen Awards 2020. 

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