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Statistics show number of divorces in 2021 fell 4.5% compared to the previous year.

On 02 February 2022, the Office for National Statistics released its annual divorce statistics for 2020, derived from information obtained from HM Courts and Tribunals Service. Of note, the overall number of divorces in 2020 was 103,592, a decrease of 4.5% compared with 2019.

It is difficult to know how much effect the coronavirus pandemic had on divorce figures during 2020, as some courts were forced to temporarily suspend operations for a period of time during the course of the year. The ONS considered that this may have impacted 'both the number and timelines of divorces granted during 2020'. 

Further figures of note include:

• In 2020, there were 1,154 divorces among same-sex couples, increasing by 40.4% from 2019.

• Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for wives petitioning for divorce among opposite-sex couples in 2020, accounting for 47.4% of petitions; for husbands, the most common reason for divorces was a two-year separation, accounting for 34.7% of divorces followed by 33.8% for unreasonable behaviour.

• For same-sex divorces, unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for divorce in 2020 for both female and male couples; unreasonable behaviour accounted for 55.2% of female divorces and 57.0% of male divorces.

• In 2020, the average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 11.9 years for opposite-sex couples, a decrease from 12.4 years in 2019.

• For same-sex divorces in 2020, the average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 4.7 years for female couples and 5.4 years for male couples; divorces among same-sex couples have only been possible since 2015 following the introduction of same-sex marriages in March 2014.

For the ONS statistics, click here.

Julia Queen, Barrister, Coram Chambers

07.02.2022