Divorce rates plummet to lowest level in 50 years ‘due to cost-of-living crisis’

22 February 2024, 21:58

Divorce rates are at their lowest level in 50 years
Divorce rates are at their lowest level in 50 years. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The number of married couples applying for divorce in England and Wales have plummeted to their lowest level in 50 years, data shows.

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The cost-of-living crisis has been cited as one of the possible reasons behind the drop, with couples opting against splitting up due to the costly nature of divorce.

Data shows there were 80,057 divorces granted in the two nations in 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics, the lowest number of divorces since 1971.

The 2022 figure is down by more than a quarter (29.5%) compared with 2021, when there were 113,505 divorces granted.

There were a total of 78,759 opposite-sex divorces in 2022, the lowest number since 1971 when there were 74,437 divorces.

Divorces are just too expensive for some couples
Divorces are just too expensive for some couples. Picture: Getty

It comes after the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act came into effect in April 2022, which reformed the legal requirements and process for divorce.

The aim of the act is to reduce the potential for conflict between divorcing couples, helping them to avoid the so-called "blame game".

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Sarah Jane Boon, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, said: "It was widely thought amongst family law professionals that we'd see a significant jump in divorce enquiries and applications."

She added that "financial challenges related to the start of the cost-of-living crisis is also a likely contributor to the fall in divorce rates, as many couples may have considered the economic benefits of staying together".

Katie O'Callaghan, partner at Boodle Hatfield, said: "This is an unprecedented decrease potentially reflecting the general sense of economic uncertainty we are currently experiencing.

"The strain that the cost of living crisis and rising inflation has had on families cannot be underestimated.

"Many are cautious to make significant decisions, particularly those that are likely to adversely impact their financial security even more in times of economic turmoil and uncertainty."

Opposite-sex couples divorcing in 2022 had been married for an average of 12.9 years while for male and female same-sex couples this was 7.5 and 6.3 years respectively. Divorce rates in 2022 were 6.7 for men and 6.6 for women per 1,000 of the male or female married population.

Kerry Gadsdon from the ONS, said: "This year is most notable for seeing the introduction of legislative change, allowing couples to make a joint application for the first time, an approach taken in well over half of dissolutions and over a quarter of divorces made since the new Act."