What percentage of divorces are amicable?

March 8th 2024

In February 2024, the Office for National Statistics released its latest divorce statistics for 2022. They showed a sharp decrease in the number of divorces from a high point of 113,505 in 2021 down to 80,057, a decrease of over 29%. This led to overexcited commentary in the mainstream media about the cost of living being an obstacle to divorce. The mainstream media was wrong.

In April 2022 No Fault Divorce came into law, the biggest reform of divorce law in half a century. People delayed divorce applications in order to use the new system and they did so in their thousands. This can be shown by the sharp spike in new divorces in the period April to June 2022, some 33,234. This really demonstrated a desire to keep divorces amicable. 

For the first time we have statistics on the percentage of joint applications; it was not previously possible for both parties to a marriage to apply jointly for a divorce. 22% of new divorces were joint applications; that may look minor compared with the number of sole applications, standing at 78%, but that does not mean sole applicants do not want to be amicable. Rules around conflicts of interest make it unlikely that solicitor led divorces will be joint, but that a concept of a joint divorce has taken root tends to show a desire to be amicable in many cases.

The picture around financial cases is not all gloom either, 71% of financial cases conclude on an uncontested basis, generally that will mean by a consent order. Nobody can pretend that all consent orders mean an amicable divorce, but it does show an ability to resolve a matter, even if the figures do not reveal at what stage matters conclude. It is safe to assume that the 29% of cases that concluded on a contested basis were not amicable.

Further statistics underscore why it makes perfect sense to seek an amicable divorce. The latest figures show that the number of family cases generally are rising, whilst final orders are falling. That means delays are increasing and while the new divorce process has delay, or cooling off, built in, avoidable delay can be limited by resolving matters. 

Solicitors need to listen, because a plea to keep things amicable is not unusual in a divorce and could become even more common.