Conflicting statistics on divorce from the ONS and MoJ

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In the last week statistics on divorce have been published by both the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) and the Ministry of Justice (‘MoJ’). They paint a conflicting picture as to whether the divorce rate is going down or up.

The ONS’s statistics, for divorces in England and Wales in 2017, indicate that the divorce rate is falling. They show that in that year there were 8.4 divorces of opposite-sex couples per 1,000 married men and women aged 16 years and over, representing the lowest divorce rates since 1973, and a 5.6% decrease from 2016. This moved Nicola Haines, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, Office for National Statistics, to comment:

“Divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in England and Wales are at their lowest level since 1973, which is around forty per cent lower than their peak in 1993.”

But she went on:

“However, among older people rates are actually higher in 2017 than in 1993 – perhaps due to the fact we have an increasingly ageing population and people are getting married later in life.”

Indeed, the statistics showed that the divorce rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 years and women aged 40 to 44 years.

Moving on to the MoJ’s statistics, which were for the Family Court for the quarter April to June 2018, these showed a significant increase in the number of divorce petitions issued in that period, up by 18% compared to same period in the previous year. There were 32,230 divorce petitions made during the period, which was the highest quarterly figure since the start of 2013, following a long period of stability around 28,000 petitions per quarter. the MoJ says that future quarters will be monitored to assess whether this a sustained change in trend.

So, is the divorce rate going down, or going up? Or maybe it has gone down and is now going up again? Perhaps we will have to wait for the next round of statistics to find out…

You can find the ONS’s statistics here, and the MoJ’s here.

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Image: Ministry of Justice, by morebyless, licensed under CC BY 2.0.