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Will divorce rates rise in 2021?

View profile for Ella Dodgson
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Will divorce rates rise in 2021?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have recently confirmed that divorce rates increased in 2019 to the highest level in 5 years with 107,599 couples divorcing last year. This was attributed to a backlog of divorce cases following the centralisation of the divorce courts.

The media has predicted that there will be a rise in divorce cases following Covid-19. However, the true extent of this will not be known until this time next year when the ONS provide updated statistics. At which point, it is expected that there will be a change in legislation to introduce ‘no fault’ divorces to England and Wales. 2020 has also seen the Court’s shift to an online divorce system which has cut timescales for divorces dramatically. Taking this into consideration, will there be a further surge of divorces next year?

The personal and financial strains of Covid-19 will undoubtedly impact on couples’ relationships which may or may not lead to the breakdown of the relationship. It is impossible to know whether these relationships would have survived if Covid-19 had not been a factor.

It is anticipated that there may be a boost to divorce rates once ‘no fault’ divorce provisions are introduced but it is expected that this will be temporary. The reason for the potential increase is that couples will not be required to wait a minimum of two years if they do not wish to apportion blame. Ultimately, family lawyers campaigned for divorce reform and the introduction of a no fault divorce to make the divorce process a much less confrontational process and not so that couples can just have an easy exit from the marriage.

In our experience, clients see the divorce as a process which they need to go through and are not deterred by the archaic process which is currently in place. As such, whilst there may be an increase following the introduction of a no fault divorce this is likely to be due to couples choosing not to delay the process for two years and also given the Court’s online divorce system significantly decreasing divorce timescales. Therefore in my opinion any rise in statistics will eventually even out.

If you are considering a divorce or dissolution, please contact our Family Law Team, who will be able to advise you on your individual circumstances.