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In April 2022, the UK introduced a landmark reform in family law by implementing the no-fault divorce system. This significant change aimed to modernise the legal process of divorce, shifting away from the adversarial approach of assigning blame to one party. Nearly two years after its implementation, the UK has witnessed a remarkable decline in the number of divorces.

Why are the divorce rates dropping?

Since the introduction of the Act, divorce rates have notably declined. Research shows a 29.5% decrease in divorce filings overall since 2022.

Notably, during the most recent quarter (July-September 2023), there were 27,290 divorce applications, with 25,907 initiated online through the HMCTS Court portal. Of these applications, 75% were individual applications, reflecting a 12% decrease compared to the same period in 2022.

This trend, coupled with the conclusion of existing cases, has raised concerns among legal practitioners regarding future workflow.

Interestingly, regional variances in divorce rates have been observed. For instance, Derby has a divorce rate 0.5% below the national average, whereas Alfreton, Derbyshire, recorded the highest divorce rate in the UK in 2023.

Several factors contribute to the declining divorce rates. By examining these regional differences alongside other contributing factors, we can gain insight into the multifaceted reasons behind the decreasing prevalence of divorce in contemporary times.

Changing attitudes towards marriage: Cohabitation is increasingly seen as a viable alternative to marriage, particularly as individuals prioritise career and education over traditional marital unions and starting a family, especially among women.

Longer-lasting marriages: The average duration of marriages has increased to 12 years, suggesting that individuals are entering marriages with greater maturity and conflict-resolution skills.

Economic factors: The current cost of living crisis has made divorces financially unviable for many couples, leading to a postponement of divorce proceedings or an exploration of alternative arrangements.

Lengthier divorce processes: The introduction of a 20-week ‘cooling off’ period has extended the average time from application to final order to 65 weeks, prompting individuals to seek quicker alternatives, such as separation agreements.

It is important to recognise that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to divorce. Couples are encouraged to seek legal advice to understand their options and navigate the divorce process effectively.



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