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Divorce Rates Reach Historic Lows According to ONS

Official data has revealed that the number of couples getting divorced has reached its lowest rate since 1971. In 2022, there were 80,057 divorces granted in England and Wales, representing a 29.5 percent decrease compared with 2021. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that the divorce rates were 6.7 for men and 6.6 for women per 1,000 of the male or female married population. Additionally, the report recorded a 22.8 percent decrease in the number of civil partnership dissolutions, with 525 dissolutions recorded in 2022. The median duration of marriages that ended in divorce was 12.9 years for opposite-sex couples, while same-sex marriages for male and female couples lasted 7.5 and 6.3 years, respectively.

For the first time, the ONS data included divorce and dissolution rates under the new law that came into effect in April 2022. The law introduced a 20-week “cooling off” period, ended the “blame game,” and allowed couples to make a joint application. Close to 29 percent of post-act divorces were granted under joint application.

Before the new law took effect, the most common divorce reason given by applicants was “unreasonable behaviour.” The ONS suggested that lower rates of divorce in 2022 could reflect the introduction of the new waiting period, while family law solicitors have argued that the cost-of-living crisis contributed to the decrease in divorce rates. Research from financial services provider Legal & General Retail suggested that one in five recent divorces were delayed last year due to income concerns, cost-of-living pressures, and the cost of divorce.

Nearly half of people who divorce end up with incomes decreased by 31 percent in the year after separation. This can leave someone with £9,700 less a year on average, research showed. A solicitor at Stephens Scown, Tamsin Best, said: “Conversely, when the economy is fluid and thriving, it can be easier to get divorced because joint resources are likely to stretch further, you can buy and sell homes more quickly and interest rates are more favorable.”

A national mediation charity has warned that divorce statistics don’t account for the couple who choose to live together and have children without getting married, while the CEO of the National Family Mediation, Sarah Hawkins, confirmed that an increasing number of people cannot afford to go their separate ways because of the cost-of-living crisis. She called on the government to continue the mediation voucher scheme, which allows couples to access up to £500 worth of mediation services.

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