Divorce rates & statistics in the UK (England & Wales) 2021

Originally published on 10th December 2019 at 1:32 PM
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We have summarised below, the blog/latest divorce/dissolution findings from the 2021 study conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which used the most recent divorce/dissolution data available (2019):

Divorce statistics:

  • There were 107,599 divorces (opposite-sex couples) in 2019, which is an increase of 18.4% from 90,871 divorces in 2018.
  • There was an increase in divorces (opposite-sex couples) from 7.5 per 1,000 married men and women (aged 16 years and over) in 2018, to 8.9 in 2019.
  • There was an increase in divorces (same-sex couples), with almost twice as many in 2019 (822) as there were in 2018 (428).
  • The most commonly used ‘fact’ or ‘grounds’ for divorce for both opposite and same-sex couples was unreasonable behaviour. This included 49% of wives and 35% of husbands using unreasonable behaviour for opposite-sex couple divorces.
  • The average length of marriage decreased from 12.5 years (at the time of divorce) in 2018 to 12.3 years in 2019.

Dissolution statistics:

In short, divorces increased, dissolutions and length of marriage decreased, and unreasonable behaviour remained the most used fact supporting divorces in 2019.

Why did divorce rates increase in 2019?

There are many factors that may have contributed to why divorce rates have increased, with the ONS (2021), suggesting that the main cause of the increase in divorce for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, was the ‘backlog of casework’ in divorce centres in 2018. This has likely resulted in a higher number of cases completed in 2019, and has therefore had an impact on the 2018 divorce statistics, reflecting a decrease in divorce. Divorce centres have been stretched further, as a result Covid 19, centre closures and staffing issues, which suggests the trend is likely to continue into the subsequent years.

No-Fault divorce:

With the introduction of no-fault divorce later this year, it's likely that the number of divorces will increase again, as divorce becomes more accessible to those who have been waiting for the end of the blame game. However, the introduction of the mandatory 6 month waiting period after submitting for divorce, may skew figures in the subsequent year.

Same-sex couples:

  • 72% of the 822 same-sex divorces were between female couples.
  • 63% of the same-sex divorces between women, used unreasonable behaviour as the ‘fact’ to rely on to prove the marriage had irretrievably broken down. This is contrasted with the 70% of male couples (same-sex divorces) who used unreasonable behaviour.
  • 54% of dissolutions in 2019 were female couples.

 Infographic: Divorce rates and statistics for England and Wales 2019

Divorce Rates 2019



What percentage of marriages end in divorce UK?

According to The National Archives, it is estimated that 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce.

What is the divorce rate in the UK 2019?

In 2019 there were 107,599 divorces, which is an increase in the divorce rate of 18.4%.

How long on average does a marriage last in the UK?

According to The National Archives, the average marriage lasts around 32 years in England and Wales.

What is the #1 cause of divorce?

The most used grounds for divorce for both same-sex and opposite sex divorces is unreasonable behaviour. Read our blogs for more information on the grounds for divorce or the reasons for divorce in the UK.

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