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When Are Married Couples Most Likely to Get Divorced?

Nearly half of all UK marriages end in divorce. However, the likelihood of getting divorced varies during the course of a marriage. Official statistics show that after a brief honeymoon period during a young marriage, couples are most at risk of divorcing after their five year anniversary.

The UK Office for National Statistics publish annual statistics on divorces in England and Wales. The latest figures are available here. In October 2017, the ONS published figures for divorces in 2016, the latest figures currently available.

In a previous blog, we wrote that 42% of marriages now end in divorce. However, the rate at which couples become divorced is not static.

A clear trend can be seen from these statistics:

  1. The Honeymoon period. This lasts on average from the date of the wedding until around the third wedding anniversary. Couples will have roughly 1% chance of divorcing in this time.
  2. The Seven Year Itch. The danger period from the 4th to the 7th anniversary of a marriage is when married couples are most at risk of divorce. The risk of divorce in any particular year during this time peaks at 3%. Half of all divorces will have taken place by the 9th wedding anniversary.
  3. Medium Term Marriage Risk. The risk of divorce remains relatively high at 2-3% per year until the 15th wedding anniversary. 3/4 of all divorces will have taken place by the 15th wedding anniversary.
  4. Til Death Do Us Part. After the 15th anniversary, couples will have a 0-1% chance of divorce each year.

Interesting sidenote: short marriages are becoming rarer. Of those married in 2011, only 7% were divorced by their 5th wedding anniversary. This is a 50% lower divorce rate than for marriages in the 80s and 90s, where divorce rates averaged 11%.

The ONS publishes figures for the cumulative percentage of marriages ending in divorce by year of marriage. From these figures, we can extrapolate the percentage of marriages ending for each year of marriage. This is the risk during each year that an average couple will divorce.

When Are Married Couples Most Likely to Get Divorced?

The MK Rose, Milton Keynes by Neil Theasby

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