ONS reveal divorces surge almost 20% in latest figures

19 November 2020

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released new figures showing the number of couples getting divorced in England and Wales surged by almost a fifth in 2019.

This is the highest level in five years and an increase of 18.4% from 2018. This trend can also been seen among same-sex couples, with 822 divorces in 2019, nearly twice the number in 2018 (428.) Whilst this growth can be attributed to divorce centres processing a backlog of casework from 2018, it is also a stark reminder that divorce is now more prevalent than ever and the ability to access good quality family law advice is invaluable.  

The most common reason cited on the divorce petition for opposite-sex couples was that of unreasonable behaviour, with 49% of wives and 35% of husbands divorcing on these grounds. Similarly, it was also the most common reason for divorce among same-sex couples with 63% of divorces among women and 70% of divorces among men. These numbers are expected to change in the coming years as the “no-fault” divorce will be introduced next autumn, after which parties will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

The ONS also provided statistics relating to the average length of a marriage. For opposite-sex couples at the time of divorce in 2019, this was 12.3 years, a small decrease from 12.5 years in 2018.

These increases, coupled with changes in legislation and a move towards online systems, require specialist advice from dedicated family lawyers. The Birketts Family Team work to keep abreast of all updates and tailor advice for our client’s specific needs. If you would like to find out more, please contact a member of the team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at November 2020.


Georgia Butterworth


+44 (0)1603 756552


* denotes required fields.