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Changing tides: Dramatic drop in divorces reflects shifting marriage attitudes

Changing tides: Dramatic drop in divorces reflects shifting marriage attitudes


Introduction of 'No Fault Divorce' sees a 30% decrease in divorces in 2022, signalling changing marital perspectives

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released data indicating a significant shift in divorce rates, revealing a 30% decrease in divorces in 2022 compared to the previous year. This substantial decline, the lowest since 1971, coincided with the introduction of the 'no fault divorce' legislation in April 2022. Family lawyers suggest that this remarkable drop may mirror evolving attitudes towards marriage, with couples opting for cohabitation over matrimony.

Stephanie Kyriacou, a family associate at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, expressed surprise at the magnitude of the decline, speculating that the aftermath of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis may render marriage and divorce financially unattainable for some. While the 'no fault divorce' legislation aimed to simplify separation procedures, the data implies a broader trend of couples choosing alternative living arrangements.

The statistics reveal that 29% of divorces in 2022 were granted under joint applications, a component introduced alongside 'no fault divorce.' While this streamlined the process, family lawyers caution against the pitfalls of DIY divorce applications, especially concerning financial matters.

The 'no fault divorce' legislation, effective from April 2022, modernised the divorce system in England and Wales, aligning it with international standards. Couples are no longer obligated to provide evidence or reasons for divorce, citing instead an 'irretrievable breakdown.' While the process is now more straightforward, lawyers emphasise the importance of caution, particularly for DIY divorce applicants with complex financial situations.

Stephanie highlighted potential risks, emphasising the necessity for spouses to address financial claims within the divorce application. Failing to do so might inadvertently forfeit their right to make financial claims against their ex-partner, posing potential disasters, especially for the financially weaker party.

Despite the ease of initiating divorces, complications persist, particularly concerning financial matters. Pension funds, investments, and property considerations demand careful attention to ensure a fair outcome. A recommended avenue for separating couples is a financial order, legally binding documents dictating the distribution of assets post-divorce.

Stephanie Kyriacou urged couples to consider the family home's future, a perennially contentious issue, and emphasised the importance of early legal advice, particularly when children or complex maintenance needs are involved. While 'no fault divorce' fosters amicable beginnings, critics argue that the legislation may have made separations too accessible.

In conclusion, the substantial drop in divorce rates following the introduction of 'no fault divorce' indicates a significant societal shift in marital attitudes, prompting a re-evaluation of the institution of marriage in favour of alternative relationship structures.