Divorce figures reach decade high as the “blame game” ends

October 10th 2022

As we mark the 6-month anniversary of the introduction of no-fault divorce across England and Wales, statistics show that divorce applications have reached their highest level in a decade.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) was implemented on 6 April 2022 and has been characterised as the biggest shake up in divorce law for more than half a century.

For many, the new divorce laws were a welcome change, allowing for a more accessible divorce system and empowering for those who may have previously feared divorce due to the consequences of assigning blame to their partner for the breakdown in their marriage. It was also anticipated that creating the circumstances for a less accusatory divorce would enable parties to negotiate crucial aspects of their separation, such as the care of children and the division of assets.

Critics of the new law argued that the no-fault approach would fail to hold partners responsible for unreasonable behaviour within the marriage and would also seek to undermine marriage, as the straightforward process allows divorce to be readily accessible. However, the latest figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that 33,566 applications were made in April to June 2022, which is a 22% increase on the same period last year and the highest number of applications in a decade. The vast majority of the applications were made under the new law, evidencing a general consensus in favour of the new regime.

Nevertheless, as we approach a time of economic uncertainty, it is arguable that the increase in no-fault divorce applications will start to slow, as the cost-of-living crisis incites fears that divorce is unaffordable for married couples. Whilst financial pressure is a predominant source of conflict in relationships, couples will be mindful that splitting into two households will naturally be more expensive for all concerned, fearing this will put them at a financial detriment, and as such hold off on any divorce proceedings, at least for now.

Helpful advice on keeping divorce costs to a minimum during a period of uncertainty can be accessed here – Divorce in uncertain times: top tips for keeping your legal fees to a minimum.

The number of applications was the highest since the first quarter of 2012 - more than a decade ago - and is up 22% from the same period in 2021.