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The Office for National Statistics has released its most recent report on divorces in England and Wales, for the year of 2022.

It has revealed that there were 80,057 divorces granted that year, 29.5% lower than in 2021 and the lowest number seen since 1971. There were also 525 civil partnership dissolutions. 22.8% fewer than in 2021 and the lowest since 2010.

The median duration of marriages that ended in divorce (the mid-point of all durations) was 12.9 years for opposite sex couples, 7.5 years for males, and 6.3 for female same-sex couples.

But, while divorce rates are decreasing, why are they happening at all? What goes wrong? Here, we take a look at the top reasons for divorce using statistics.


The Five Main Reasons for Divorce in the UK

The most recent statistical report from the Office for National Statistics reveals that in 2022, the following reasons were cited in opposite-sex divorces:

1. Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour was the most cited reason for divorce and has been the most common ground for females petitioning for divorce in opposite-sex couples for over 40 years! It has also been the most common ground for males since 2006 – previously, adultery was most common.

This was cited the most as it covered a number of aspects. Essentially, it was relied on by one spouse when their wife or husband’s behaviour was so bad, they could no longer stay married to them.  

Unreasonable behaviour includes physical violence, verbal abuse, addiction, or refusing to pay for the expenses related to the marital home, amongst much more. 

2. Two-Year Separation With Consent

Previously, you could be granted a divorce in the UK if you had been separated and lived apart for more than two years. Both parties had to agree on a divorce. This was a common reason given when neither party wanted to relive pain or pass blame.

3. Five-Year Separation

Separation could be used as a reason, even if both parties did not agree on a divorce, if a married couple had been living apart for more than five years. Previously, this led to relatively quick divorce rulings.

However, since this data was compiled, the UK has introduced a no-fault divorce process. Therefore, you no longer need to be separated for a certain amount of time before you can legally divorce.

Read more: What Is A No Fault Divorce?

4. Adultery

Adultery, more commonly known as an affair, was a common reason for divorce. A marriage is a promise to love and be faithful to a person for a lifetime, therefore either party having sex with another person can break down trust and often cannot be forgiven – whatever the reason behind the stray. 

It was possible previously to apply for divorce based on adultery, however, there were some restrictions. For example, it was not legally seen as a reason if the couple remained living together for six months or more after the innocent party found out.

Adultery could also not be claimed if the affair was between two people of the same sex. This also includes same-sex marriage cases. In such cases, unreasonable behaviour could be cited instead.

5. Desertion

Although rare, desertion was the explanation for divorce in around 500 of the 2022 cases.

This involved either partner leaving without good reason or the consent of the remaining spouse. The spouse who left had to have intended to end the marriage with the other party and the desertion had to be ongoing for at least a continuous period of two-years before the petition for divorce could be filed with the court.

If the parties lived together again for 6 months or more during the two-year period, the two-year period would have to be restarted.

Some people refer to cases like this as abandonment, and it can sometimes lead to difficulty in the dividing of shared assets and responsibilities as the deserting partner is hard to locate.


Do You Still Need to Cite a Reason to Get a Divorce?

Since this data was collected in 2022, the law on divorce in England and Wales has changed.

You no longer need to provide a reason to get a divorce, but all of the following must be true:

  • you’ve been married for 12 months or longer
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your marriage is legally recognised in the UK

Dissolving a civil partnership has similar stipulations.

You can now also apply alone, or jointly with your spouse.

If the marriage was never legally valid, or it was voidable (because either party were under 18, already married, or you are closely related), you could apply for an annulment rather than a divorce.

Alternatively, a legal separation can be sought if you would like to separate by not divorce. This could be due to religious reasons, you have been married less than a year, or you are not 100% sure of the future of your relationship.


Do You Require a Divorce?

If you’re considering a divorce and would like to know more about your rights and the process, please contact our friendly team of divorce solicitors.

Alternatively, if you are yet to marry, learn about prenuptial agreements here.  


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