Are divorce rates surging?

Latest family court statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that the number of divorce completions shot up by 23% in the twelve months

Latest family court statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that the number of divorce completions shot up by 23% in the twelve months to the end of March 2020, as reported in the Daily Mail.

Note that these numbers precede both lockdown in late March – so have nothing to do with Covid – and the change in divorce law that doesn’t come into effect until next year.

Nevertheless a 29% rise in divorces ‘nisi’ and 23% rise in divorces ‘absolute’ represent an abnormally large swing that deserve a sensible explanation.

What seems most likely is that this is nothing more than the clearing of a backlog that built up following electronification of the divorce process 2018.

If we were seeing a turning of the tide after 25 years of falls in divorce rates, then we might expect to see new petitions picking up as well.

They haven’t.

In fact they are down 4.4% over the latest 12 month period.

Similarly, the time taken for the divorce process to complete has averaged between 37 and 41 weeks (median) since the middle of 2018, prior to which the typical divorce took around 30 weeks.

So the average divorce is taking a couple of months longer than usual. Some will be taking a lot longer than that.

We will of course keep an eye on this. But for now there is nothing to see here …

… other than the really important big picture stuff:

  • Divorce rates remain at their lowest in 50 years.
  • Marriages continue to prove vastly more durable than unmarried cohabitations.