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Divorce rates reach 50-year low amid the cost-of-living crisis

Recent statistics released by the ONS show that the number of divorces granted in England and Wales in 2022 has fallen by 29.5% compared to 2021. In total, there were 80,057 divorces in 2022, representing the lowest figures since 1971. We look at why the number of married couples splitting up is on the decline and what the role the cost-of-living crisis may be playing.

The impact of the financial environment

The cost-of-living crisis has caused ripple effects in numerous areas of consumerism and business. It has also arguably caused would-be divorcing couples to re-think or hold fire on their plans to officially separate. According to one report, the current financial environment has ‘eroded people’s confidence in managing their money’ –  offering one explanation as to why, when divorces usually include dividing marital assets, many have decided to not go through with parting ways from their spouse.

Concerns over financial implications of a divorce?

In almost all divorces, both parties will need to fully disclose their financial assets and income, including details of pensions, savings and property. The existing future welfare needs of any children will be taken into account too, and if there are properties overseas, for example, the process can become more complicated, even without overall economic uncertainty.

These matrimonial assets are added to the ‘matrimonial pot’ during a financial settlement. With so much wider financial uncertainty around the future of house prices, interest rates, and the job market, for example, it seems that some couples could be waiting for more financial stability before they go through the necessary financial process of a divorce.

The cost of being single

In addition, the impact of personal finances once a financial settlement has been reached, could also dissuade some married couples from divorcing. For example, it could mean that as a newly single person, income is significantly lowered with only one person working. It could also mean that you may be faced with having to buy or rent a new home without the financial means to do it.

According to Money Wellness, single people are likely to pay more for food, energy, housing, holidays and even with the 25% single rate occupancy for council tax, the amount paid is still more than if the full amount was split between two parties.

The no-fault divorce laws

For some experts, the 50-year low divorce rates have come as a surprise because when the new no-fault divorce rules came into effect in April 2022, it was predicted that rates would go up in the years that followed. That’s because the new laws were aimed to make the divorcing process simpler.

Fundamentally, the new laws were created so that during a divorce, blame was not attributed to one party – an area which was prone to making proceedings more acrimonious and drawn out. Today, couples divorcing can simply cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of their marriage as a legitimate reason for their split to obtain a divorce.

As the new laws do not allow for one party to contest the divorce, they can also help victims of domestic abuse who may have otherwise been stuck in a marriage with their spouse able to contest their divorce.

According to some organisations and charities, the new rates have sparked renewed concerns for domestic abuse victims who may not be leaving their marriages due to financial hardship and be forced to stay in an abusive relationship. According to a report in PinkNews, the new low rates have also sparked concerns for domestic violence victims within the LGBTQ+ community.

With no sign of the cost-of-living crisis coming to an end soon, it seems we could expect divorce rates in England and Wales to stay as they are or perhaps fall further.


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