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User requirement for marriages, divorce and civil partnership statistics given the introduction of marriage of same sex couples.
The number of divorces in England and Wales in 2012 was 118,140, an increase of 0.5% since 2011, when there were 117,558 divorces. For those married in 1972, 22% of marriages had ended in divorce by their 15th wedding anniversary whereas for those married in 1997, almost a third of marriages had ended by this time. This bulletin presents annual statistics on divorces that took place in England and Wales in 2012, following court orders.
A marriage may be either dissolved, following a petition for divorce and the granting of a decree absolute, or annulled, following a petition for nullity and the awarding of a decree of nullity. Divorce statistics are analysed by sex, age and marital status before marriage, duration of marriage, age at divorce, the number and age of children involved, and the grounds for divorce.
This is the first time that ONS has released 2012 divorce statistics for England and Wales. In 2012, the number of divorces in England and Wales increased by 0.5% to 118,140 compared with 117,558 in 2011. Figure 1 shows the changing trend in the number of divorces since 1932, as well as changes in the number of marriages. Divorce rates for 2002-2010 are calculated using marital status population estimates based on the 2001 Census.
Changes in the size of the adult population who are married, and therefore able to divorce, will affect both the number of divorces and the divorce rate. Divorce rates calculated using marital status estimates based on the 2001 Census suggest that both the male and female divorce rates have generally decreased since 2004 with the exception of 2010 and 2012 for females where rates increased. It is too early to say whether recent trends in divorce rates represent small fluctuations resulting from rates nearing some form of stabilisation. Women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all female age groups, with 23.6 females divorcing per thousand married women aged 25 to 29 in 2012.
Men in their early thirties had the highest divorce rate in 2012 with 21.9 males divorcing per thousand married men aged 30 to 34. The mean age at divorce generally declined for both males and females during the mid to late 1970s and generally remained stable in the early 1980s. In 2012, 71% of divorces were to couples where both parties were in their first marriage, while the remaining 29% were to couples where at least one of the parties had been divorced or widowed previously.
The percentage of couples divorcing where the marriage was the first for both parties generally declined from the early 1970s to 2006 before increasing to 2012. The percentage of marriages ending in divorce has generally increased for those marrying between the 1970s and the early 1990s.
In 2011, it was estimated that the percentage of marriages ending in divorce (assuming 2010 divorce and mortality rates throughout the duration of marriage) was 42%.
Figure 5 illustrates the percentages of marriages ending in divorce or death, by each anniversary assuming that divorce and mortality rates remain unchanged from those in 2010 throughout the duration of the marriage. Figure 5 shows that the cumulative percentage of marriages ending in divorce increases more rapidly in the first 10 years of marriage than the 10 years after that.
Figure 6 shows that the probability of divorce by the next wedding anniversary rises rapidly in the first five years of marriage, so that between the fourth and eighth wedding anniversaries the probability of divorcing by the next anniversary is over 3%. The number of divorces in the UK in 2012 is not currently available as divorce figures for Scotland are not yet available (see background note 3). Similarly to the increase in divorces, the number of civil partnership dissolutions also increased in 2012. Divorce rates for 2011 and 2012 are therefore based on estimated 2011 marital status population estimates. Perform further analyses, for example comparing trends in divorce with civil partnership dissolutions. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is one of the key users of divorce statistics and has responsibility for policy and legislation on divorces. Other government departments, for example the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Education (DfE), also use divorce statistics.
Organisations such as Eurostat use ONS divorce statistics for comparison purposes and organisations in the voluntary sector may use ONS divorce statistics to support campaigns.
Lawyers, solicitors and those involved in family law, as well as academics and researchers in demography and social sciences, are often interested in divorce figures. Queries on divorces by area are frequent, although ONS does not produce divorces by area of residence. More data on divorces in England and Wales are available on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website. Annual divorce figures for the UK and constituent countries can be found in the Vital Statistics: Population and Health Reference tables. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency provide divorce statistics for Northern Ireland. Divorce statistics are also available from the Ministry of Justice in Court Statistics Quarterly. Population estimates by marital status provide the estimated resident population by single year of age, sex and marital status (single, married, divorced, and widowed) for England and Wales. The number of divorces as indicated by ONS and MoJ statistics, while similar, do not match exactly, and ONS and MoJ have published a joint statement on differences between these figures. Since 2007 divorce figures published by MoJ have included dissolutions of civil partnerships. Differences in the number of late divorce records excluded from ONS and MoJ annual datasets.
From the 2013 data year, ONS will be compiling divorce statistics from electronic extracts of divorces taken directly from the Familyman system used by the courts which will help to minimise the difference between the two sets of statistics. Scottish Government took over sole responsibility for the publication of statistics on divorces in Scotland at the end of 2012. The male divorce rate is calculated by dividing the number of males divorcing in a particular year by the estimated number of married males aged 16 and over in that same year (taken from mid-year population estimates by marital status). The median duration of marriage at divorce in this release is represented by the middle value when the data are arranged in increasing order. Fact proven at divorce; A petitioner must prove one or more of five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or separation, either with or without consent of the respondent), in order to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. These figures have been produced using marriage statistics, divorce and mortality rates for 2010 which were the latest data available when the analyses were conducted.
Special extracts and tabulations of divorce data for England and Wales are available to order (subject to legal frameworks, disclosure control, resources and agreement of costs, where appropriate). The number of divorces in England and Wales in 2011 was 117,558, a decrease of 1.7% since 2010, when there were 119,589 divorces. Based on marriage, divorce and mortality statistics for 2010, it is estimated that the percentage of marriages ending in divorce is 42%, compared with 45% in 2005. This bulletin presents annual statistics on divorces that took place in England and Wales in 2011, following court orders. This is the first time that ONS has released 2011 divorce statistics for England and Wales.
In 2011 the number of divorces in England and Wales decreased by 1.7% to 117,558 compared with 119,589 in 2010. Figure 1 shows the changing trend in the number of divorces since 1931, as well as changes in the number of marriages. Changes in the size of the adult population who are married, and therefore at risk of divorce, will affect both the number of divorces and the divorce rate. Marital status estimates based on the 2001 Census suggest that both the male and female divorce rate decreased between 2004 and 2011 with the exception of 2010 where rates increased. It is too early to say whether the decrease in divorces in 2011 will continue in 2012 or whether recent trends in divorce rates represent small fluctuations resulting from rates nearing some form of stabilisation. Women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all female age groups, with 23.9 females divorcing per thousand married women aged 25 to 29 in 2011. Similarly, men in their late twenties had the highest divorce rate in 2011 with 21.9 males divorcing per thousand married men aged 25 to 29.
Following an initial rise between 1971 and 1972 the mean age at divorce generally declined for both males and females during the mid to late 1970s and generally remained stable in the early 1980s. In 2011, 70% of divorces were to couples where both parties were in their first marriage, while the remaining 30% were to couples where at least one of the parties had been divorced or widowed previously. The percentage of couples divorcing where the marriage was the first for both parties has generally declined from the early 1970s to 2011.
It is estimated that the percentage of marriages ending in divorce (assuming 2010 divorce and mortality rates throughout the duration of marriage) is 42%. The number of divorces in the UK decreased by 1.9% in 2011 to 129,763 compared with 132,338 in 2010. Despite the decrease in divorces, the number of civil partnership dissolutions increased in 2011.


Consequently, 2011 divorce rates are based on estimated 2011 marital status population estimates which use the mid-2011 population estimates based on the 2011 Census and the marital status distribution from the 2008-based marital status population projections for 2011.
Organisations such as Eurostat and those in the voluntary sector use ONS divorce statistics for comparison purposes and also to support campaigns. Annual divorce figures for the UK and constituent countries can be found in the Population and Health Reference tables. Fact proven at divorce; A petitioner must prove one or more of five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, and separation, either with or without consent of the respondent), in order to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
These figures have been produced using marriage statistics, divorce and mortality rates for 2010. The number of divorces in England and Wales in 2010 was 119,589, an increase of 4.9 per cent since 2009, when there were 113,949 divorces. 22 per cent of marriages in 1970 had ended in divorce by the 15th wedding anniversary, whereas 33 per cent of marriages in 1995 had ended after the same period of time.
This bulletin presents annual statistics on divorces that took place in 2010 following court orders, in England and Wales.
This is the first time that ONS has published annual 2010 divorce statistics for England and Wales. The number of divorces in England and Wales rose by 4.9 per cent in 2010 to 119,589 compared with 113,949 in 2009.
The number of divorces fell steadily between 2003 and 2009 in parallel with the decline in the number of marriages. The increase in the male divorce rate has resulted solely from a rise in the number of divorces, as the total number of married men in the population has increased slightly. The small rise in the divorce rate and the number of divorces in 2010 could be associated with the economic climate following the 2008-09 recession. It is too early to say whether the rise in divorces in 2010 will continue or is related to the economic climate.
The Number of divorces by age at divorce, 2010 chart shows the age at divorce for men and women in 2010.
Compared with 2009, divorce rates in England and Wales rose across all age groups in 2010 for women, while for men the rates rose for all age groups 25 years and above. Women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all female age groups, with 25.9 females divorcing per thousand married women aged 25 to 29 in 2010. In contrast, men in their early thirties had the highest divorce rate in 2010 at 22.5 males divorcing per thousand married men aged 30 to 34. In 2010, 20 per cent of men and 19 per cent of women divorcing had their previous marriage end in divorce. In 2010, 70 per cent of divorces were to couples where both parties were in their first marriage, while the remaining 30 per cent were to couples where at least one of the parties had been divorced or widowed. The percentage of couples divorcing where the marriage was the first for both parties has generally declined from the early 1970s to 2010. The number of divorces in the UK rose by 4.5 per cent in 2010 to 132,223 compared with 126,496 in 2009. The number of divorces in Scotland fell by 3.2 per cent, from 10,371 in 2009 to 10,034 in 2010. Comparisons between civil partnership dissolutions and divorce statistics can be found in the article: Civil Partnerships five years on, which was published in Population Trends (Autumn 2011). More data on divorces in England and Wales in 2010 are available on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website. ONS divorces metadata provides further information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to divorces. The number of divorces as indicated by ONS and MoJ statistics, while similar,do not match exactly. Special extracts and tabulations of divorce data for England and Wales are available to order for a charge (subject to legal frameworks, disclosure control, resources and agreement of costs, where appropriate).
Alison Hawes, a divorce and family lawyer at solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said: "Sadly, the January divorce spike is no myth as people generally feel that the New Year offers a new start for them and their family. She said that while adults could speak to their divorce lawyers and get advice on what happens next, it was known from research that young people, especially teenagers, often did not know where to turn for advice once they were told the news by separating parents. Irwin Mitchell says it is now working with the charity Kids In The Middle to reduce the impact of divorce and separation on children by providing a support network for people affected. 06-Feb-2014Tables contain dissolutions and annulments of marriage by previous marital status, sex and age of divorcees, children and facts proven and to whom granted.
23-Nov-2015Dissolutions and annulments of marriage by previous marital status, sex and age of divorcees, children and facts proven and to whom granted. 06-Feb-2014Divorce statistics by age at divorce and marital status before marriage are provided in these tables.
23-Nov-2015Divorce statistics on the number and age of children in families where the parents divorce. The number of divorces granted in the UK has reached its highest level since 1996, new statistics reveal. The latest statistics, released on Wednesday, also show that in England and Wales more than two-thirds - 69% - of divorces in 2004 were granted to the wife.
It was also revealed that 53% of couples divorcing had at least one child under the age of 16 - 2% less than in 2003. The statistics do not include divorces to couples usually resident in England and Wales which took place abroad. The number of divorces declined between 2003 and 2009 from 153,065 to 113,949 followed by a 4.9% increase in 2010. The number of divorces generally increased between 1932 and the early 1990s as a result of changes in behaviour and attitudes.
Similar decreases in the male and female divorce rates have also taken place since 2002 (Figure 2). Divorce rates in 2012 remained similar to 2011 due to only a slight increase in the number of divorces and no change in the adult married population. Any impact of the recession on divorce is likely to vary across different sectors of society (Chowdhury, 2013). Recent trends could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact (Bradford Wilcox, 2011). At younger ages there were more women than men divorcing; however, at older ages more men than women divorced. Over the last two decades, the divorce rate for men has been highest for those aged either 25 to 29 or 30 to 34. Since 1985 the mean ages at divorce for men and women have increased, rising by 7.3 years for both men and women. The Act replaced the discretionary time bar (minimum time interval between the date of marriage and being able to file a petition for divorce) of three years by an absolute time bar of one year. Over the same period however, the percentage of divorces where one or both parties were previously divorced gradually increased to 2006 before decreasing to 2012.
There were 99,822 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents divorced in 2012, a decrease of 33% from 2002 when there were 149,335 children. However, for the most recent cohorts, those marrying since 2000, there is some evidence of decreases between successive cohorts in the proportion of marriages ending in divorce. After the eighth wedding anniversary, the probability of divorcing decreases from this peak, and by the 26th anniversary, the chance of divorcing by the next anniversary is less than 1%. The number of divorces in Northern Ireland increased in 2012, with 2,444 divorces, 4.3% more than in 2011 when there were 2,343. The marital status estimates used to calculate divorce rates for 2002-2010 are therefore not consistent with the latest mid-year population estimates. DWP uses the detailed divorce statistics to feed into statistical models for pensions and benefits.
This is because divorce data provided to ONS by the courts does not contain information on the area of residence of the parties.
This will impact on marriage, divorce and civil partnership statistics which ONS publishes.
For example, in 2012 the total ONS divorce figure was 118,140 compared with the MoJ figure of 120,704 a difference of 2,564 (2.2%).
A statement on the difference between ONS and MoJ divorce statistics is available on the ONS website. Divorce figures for the year ending March 2013 will be published in Civil Law Statistics in Scotland in February 2014. Likewise, the female divorce rate is calculated by dividing the number of females divorcing in a particular year by the estimated number of married females aged 16 and over in that same year. The median is used, rather than the mean, because the duration of marriage for divorces is not symmetrically distributed, therefore the median provides a more accurate reflection of this distribution.
For example, couples who live in England and Wales but who have married abroad in the last decade are not included in the marriage figures but may be included in the divorce figures, which could lead to over-estimation of the proportion of marriages ending in divorce.


The number of divorces generally increased between 1931 and 1990 as a result of changes in behaviour and attitudes. The large increase observed during the 1970s was associated with the Divorce Reform Act 1969, which came into effect in England and Wales on 1 January 1971, making it easier for couples to divorce upon separation. Similar decreases in the male and female divorce rates have also taken place since 2001 (Figure 2). The decrease in divorce rates in 2011 was driven by both a decrease in the number of divorces and an increase in the size of the married adult population. Any impact of the recession on divorce is likely to vary across different sectors of society. This continues the recent trend where men aged 25 to 29 had the highest divorce rate between 2006 and 2008; rates for men aged 25 to 29 and 30 to 34 were equal highest in 2009, and in 2010 rates for men aged 30 to 34 were highest. Following the change in legislation the median duration of marriage fell to 8.9 years for divorces granted in 1985. Over the same period however, the percentage of divorces where one or both parties were previously divorced has gradually increased. There were 100,760 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents divorced in 2011, a decrease of 31% from 2001 when there were 146,914 children.
In 2011 there was an average of 1.76 children aged under 16 per divorcing couples with one or more children aged under 16.
The marital status estimates used to calculate divorce rates for 2002-2008 are therefore not consistent with the latest mid-year population estimates. The demography unit at DWP uses the detailed divorce statistics to feed into statistical models for pensions and benefits. For example, in 2011 the total ONS divorce figure was 117,558 compared with the MoJ figure of 119,610 a difference of 2,052 (1.7% ).
While divorce and mortality rates are currently available for 2011, 2011 statistics for marriages will not be available until Spring 2013.
The statistics do not include divorces to couples usually resident in England and Wales which take place abroad.
This is the first annual increase in divorces since 2003 when there were 153,065 divorces (up from 147,735 in 2002). The number of divorces generally increased between 1930 and 1990 as a result of changes in behaviour and attitudes.
The rise in the overall divorce rate in 2010 was driven by both an increase in the number of divorces and a decrease in the size of the married adult population. In contrast, the increase in the female divorce rate is a consequence of both a rise in the number of divorces and a slight fall in the total number of married women in the population.
The figures show that divorce rates continued their downward trend during 2008 and 2009 but increased in 2010. The divorce rate for men aged under 20 remained stable in 2010 while for men aged 20 to 24 it decreased. This continues the general pattern seen over the last two decades, despite women aged 20 to 24 having the highest divorce rate in 1995. There were 104,364 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents divorced in 2010, a decrease of 27 per cent from 2000 when there were 142,457 children. However, there is some evidence that the proportion of marriages ending in divorce had stopped increasing for couples married in the most recent years. This is because divorce data contain no information on the area of residence of the parties. For example, in 2010 the total ONS divorce figure was 119,589 compared with the MoJ figure of 121,265, a difference of 1,676 (1.4 per cent). Analyses of proportion of people married or born in a particular year who divorce by a particular anniversary or age. The number of divorces has remained relatively stable since 2010, fluctuating just below the number recorded in 2010. Divorce rates for 2011 and 2012 are based on estimated 2011 marital status population estimates which use the mid-2011 population estimates based on the 2011 Census and the marital status distribution from the 2008-based marital status population projections for 2011. Marital status estimates for 2011 and 2012 are not currently available; therefore divorce rates for 2012 have been calculated using estimated 2011 marital status population estimates. In addition some individuals may believe they will get a more favourable divorce settlement if their income is currently low. Men aged 25 to 29 had the highest divorce rate in 2011 with 21.9 males divorcing per thousand married men. A consultation ran between 8 October and 17 December 2013 to help ONS understand user requirements for published statistics on marriages, divorces and civil partnership formations and dissolutions given the introduction of marriage of same sex couples. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also publishes a summary of divorce figures as part of their Court Statistics Quarterly.
The mean would be affected by the relatively small number of divorces which take place when duration of marriage exceeds 15 years.
The first replaced the discretionary time bar (minimum time interval between the date of marriage and being able to file a petition for divorce) of three years by an absolute time bar of one year. Divorce rates for 2011 are based on estimated 2011 marital status population estimates which use the mid-2011 population estimates based on the 2011 Census and the marital status distribution from the 2008-based marital status population projections for 2011. Changes in the size of the married population are determined by patterns of marriage, divorce, mortality and migration.
A similar trend can be seen during the previous recession in 1990-92, where divorce rates increased more markedly in 1993 than during the recession itself. Since this change, the median duration between marriage and divorce increased steadily up to 2005 but has remained relatively stable since.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also publishes a summary of divorce figures as part of their Judicial and Court Statistics.
This rise could simply mark the stabilisation of the divorce rate given the fall in divorce rate between 2005 and 2009. This could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact, perhaps reflecting a couples wait for an economic recovery to lift the value of their assets (see note 2) or the time lag between separation and obtaining a decree absolute. Between 2006 and 2008, men aged 25 to 29 had the highest divorce rate, while in 2009 rates for men aged 25 to 29 and 30 to 34 were equal highest.
DfE have an interest in divorce statistics since family breakdown can impact on a child's well-being. Whilst the actual number of males and females getting married or divorced in a particular year is equal, the number of unmarried males and females in the population will differ, hence the different rates (see background note 4).
In 2012, there was an average of 1.75 children aged under 16 per divorcing couple with one or more children aged under 16. A summary of responses to the consultation along with future plans for marriage, divorce and civil partnership statistics will be published on the ONS website in Spring 2014. MoJ receives divorce data electronically from HM Court Service (HMCS) through the FamilyMan system.
Whilst the actual number of males and females getting married or divorced in a particular year is equal, the number of unmarried males and females in the population will differ, hence the different rates (see background note 3). To enable comparisons over time, divorce rates in 2011 have been compared to those in 2001.
In 2010 there was an average of 1.76 children aged under 16 per divorcing couple with children under 16. The second change meant the Act no longer required courts to try to place the divorced spouses in the financial position they would have enjoyed had the marriage not broken down. This proportion has doubled since 1980 when 10 per cent of men and women divorcing had a previous marriage ending in divorce.
In 2009 70 per cent of divorces were to couples where the marriage was the first for both parties.For 67 per cent of divorces in 2009, the wife was granted the divorce.
This is the fifth consecutive fall in the number of UK divorces and the lowest number since 1974 (121,103). The figure is 30 per cent lower than the highest number of divorces, which peaked in 1993 (180,523).
The Act, subsequently consolidated in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, made it possible for the first time for divorce to be petitioned for on the couple’s separation.The Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 came into effect in England and Wales on 12 October 1984. The Act made two changes, the first replaced the discretionary time bar (minimum time interval between the date of marriage and being able to file a petition for divorce) of three years by an absolute time bar of one year. The second change meant the Act no longer required courts to try to place the divorced spouses in the financial position they would have enjoyed, had the marriage not broken down.The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 came into effect on 4 May 2006. The Act reduced the separation periods for divorce with consent to one year (previously two years) and without consent to two years (previously five years).



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