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10 new suprising and unexpected facts about divorce in the UK

1. Women are much more likely to divorce on the basis of unreasonable behaviour.

37,000 women divorced their husband on the basis of their unreasonable behaviour in 2014, representing over half of the total divorces granted to women (53%). By contrast, only 16,000 men were granted divorces on the basis of their wife’s unreasonable behaviour (31%).

2. Men are now getting divorced significantly later in life

The average (median) age for divorce for a man is now 45. This is 10 years older than the average age for divorcing men in the early 80s.

3. Women are divorcing less while the number of men divorcing remains consistent

In 2014, less than 70,000 women were granted a divorce, down from a peak of 118,000 in 1993. This represents a 41% fall over 21 years. The number of men divorcing in 2014 was just over 41,000, a figure which has remained roughly constant since the 70s.

4. Women are now more likely to be granted a divorce on the basis of adultery than men.

For the first time, women are now more likely than men to be granted a divorce on the basis of their spouse’s adultery (13% for women, 12% for men). This reverses a long term trend where men have always been much more likely than women to get a divorce on the basis of adultery. At its peak in 1987, nearly half of men (45%) cited adultery in their divorce vs only a quarter of women (25%).

5. Fewer people are getting divorced, except for women aged 55+.

The number of divorces continues to drop steadily, year on year, now at a low of 111,000. Divorce numbers peaked in 1992 at 165,000. Surprisingly, the fall in the divorce rate applies to all age groups, except for older women, where the rate continues to rise.

6. Divorce in the under 20s is now incredibly rare

Only 19 women and 3 men (out of 111,000 total) were divorced under the age of 20. This represents a mere 2% of the equivalent numbers of young divorcees in the mid 80s.

7. Men will soon be granted more divorces than women

Women have traditionally been granted the large majority of divorces in the UK. However, since the start of the 2000s, this trend has been reversing. If the current trend continues, we expect to see a male majority of divorces for the first time in 2022. 

8. Couples are increasingly divorcing on the basis of their separation rather than each other’s behaviour.

39% of recent divorces were granted on the basis of a couple’s separation, rather than either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. The proportion of divorces granted after separation has been rising steadily from around 25% in the early 90s.

9. Couples married in 1994 are the most likely to get divorced.

Those married in 1994 had a 89% chance of reaching their 5th wedding anniversary, a 75% chance of reaching their 10th wedding anniversary and only a 62% chance of reaching their 20th wedding anniversary.

10. The average marriage length is now at a record high of 12 years

The median duration of a marriage now stands at 11.7 years, a record high since the coming into force of the The Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984.

For more interesting and suprising divorce facts, see our previous blog 10 surprising facts about modern divorce in the UK

For more up to date statistics, see our post How Many UK Marriages End in Divorce (and other interesting statistics)? from 2018.

*All data sourced from the Office of National Statistics release “Divorces in England & Wales, 2014” 05/12/16. At the time of posting, this is the most up to date source of statistics available from the ONS relating to divorces in the UK. Figures relate to divorces of opposite sex couples.

UK Divorce Facts

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