Are We Getting Better at Being Married?
The latest statistics from The Office for National Statistics indicate that the number of heterosexual couples getting divorced in England and Wales is at its lowest since 1973.
In 2017 there were 101,669 divorces of opposite sex couples in England and Wales (a 4.9% decrease from 2016). Interestingly there were 338 divorces of same sex couples in 2017 (a threefold increase from 2016).
In 2017 62% of divorces were petitioned by the wife. The most common reason for divorce for heterosexual and same sex couples was unreasonable behaviour.
One reason for the overall decrease may be a decline in the number of marriages, which could be down to the increasing number of couples choosing to cohabite rather than enter into marriage.
The Owens -v- Owens case gave rise to a consultation paper advocating a ‘no-fault’ divorce ground enabling couples effectively to obtain a divorce without blaming the other, and without the need to separate for lengthy periods of time to satisfy a separation petition.
Tini Owens wished to divorce her husband of 40 years; she was told that she must remain married, because a joyless marriage is not a ground for a divorce in the event that it was contested.
Tini’s case thrust the country’s lack of provision for no fault divorce into the spotlight – even spouses mutually seeking to end a marriage, must, unless they have been living apart, assign blame and list allegations of unreasonable behaviour in a divorce petition.
Even when handled in the most sensitive way, this can inflame proceedings. Whether there is a change in the law or not though, remains to be seen.
Written by Zoe Porter, Partner at Ashfords Solicitors
A number of Ashfords Family Team are members of Resolution, the national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, separation and other family problems – please call 01392 333686 or visit www.ashfords.co.uk/