Latest Divorce Statistics – Second Time Marriage more likely to succeed

Latest Divorce Statistics – Second Time Marriage more likely to succeed

With 60% of opposite-sex marriages ending in divorce before the 20th wedding anniversary and second-time-around marriages much less likely to fail, it appears that opposite-sex marriage is far more likely to succeed second-time-around, especially after the age of 49 for men and 44 for women.

Since the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014, there has been a significant fall in the number of civil partnerships being formed due to same sex couples being more likely now to opt for a marriage instead.

Many people believe divorce rates have increased in recent years. In fact, divorce rates are at their lowest levels in over 40 years and the divorce rate seems to be continuing to fall.

Here are some of the most recent facts from the Office for National Statistics:

How many marriages end in divorce?

  • 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce

  • 102,007 couples divorced in 2017 

  • Of divorcing couples: 99.66% were opposite-sex couples and 0.34% were same-sex couples

  • Opposite-sex divorces fell 4.9% in 2017 compared to 2016

  • The number of same-sex divorces more than tripled (although this is to be expected since same-sex marriage was only legalised in 2014)

  • Overall, there has been a fall in the percentage of marriages ending in divorce since 2000, thought to be because people are tending to get married when they are older and have already cohabited.

When is a divorce most likely?

  • The divorce rate for opposite sex couples is highest for men aged 45-49 and women aged 40-44

  • This likely reflects that fact that men tend on average to marry younger women

  • 60% of opposite-sex marriages end before the 20th wedding anniversary

  • The average (median) length of marriage at the time of divorce being 12.2 years for opposite sex couples.

How often do second marriages end in divorce?

  • People who have been married before are much less likely to get divorced if they marry again

  • 59% of divorces involve partners in a first marriage

  • 18% have one partner who has previously been divorced

  • 8% of divorces have both partners having been married before.

Current trends in divorce

  • 62% of divorces between opposite-sex couples are initiated by the wife

  • 74% of same-sex divorces in 2017 were for female couples.

Civil partnership dissolutions

  • 1,217 civil partnership dissolutions were granted in 2017, which is a 53% increase compared to figures from 2012, five years earlier

  • Since the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014, there has been a significant fall in the number of civil partnerships being formed

  • Same sex couples are more likely now to opt for a marriage instead.

Why do people get divorced?

  • The most commonly reason cited when people petition for divorce is “unreasonable behaviour”

  • 83% of wives petitioning for divorce and 73% of husbands initiating proceedings was on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour

  • Unreasonable behaviour covers a wide range of things, from lack of emotional support or a sexual relationship, to refusing to contribute financially and more serious actions, such as domestic abuse

  • Other potential reasons or grounds for divorce include adultery, desertion, the couple have been separated for 2 years and both people consent, or 5 years separation if one party will not consent

  • One explanation for why unreasonable behaviour is so commonly used is because it can allow people to get divorced quickly

  • All other options (except adultery) require you to wait before you can legally end your marriage

  • Because there is no such thing as a “no fault” divorce in the UK, couples need to prove their marriage has broken down and place blame in order to move forward

  • Unless one of the parties is willing to admit to adultery, one or both of the married couple agreeing to unreasonable behaviour is often the simplest, fastest way to end a marriage.

Why is the divorce rate falling?

There is no way to know for certain:-

  • One common theory is that because more people are cohabiting before getting married, they have a better idea of whether marriage will work for them, before committing to tie the knot.

  • Another possible reason is that many people are getting married when they are older, meaning they are more mature and have more relationship experience. This may leave people more likely to make better choices about whom to marry and know how to handle any conflict within a marriage better.

  • One thing to bear in mind, however, is that these statistics only include people who are married or in civil partnerships. There are no official figures for the number of cohabiting couples who separate and the fact that this is the fastest growing type of household in the UK likely plays a significant role in the falling rate of divorce.

Who collects divorce statistics for UK couples?

The Office for National Statistics collects divorce statistics based on information from the Courts and Tribunal Service recorded during the divorce process for each individual couple. These latest 2017 figures are for England and Wales and record both divorces and annulments (where the marriage was not legally valid in the first place).

Get expert legal advice for your divorce

We have many years of experience helping people to manage the end of their marriages and civil partnerships. We know how confusing, stressful and emotionally taxing divorce can be, as well as the concerns about children and finances that come with ending a relationship.

We can advise you on all aspects of getting divorced, help you to separate from your former partner as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, whilst minimising the potential for conflict.

Our family law team contains a number of experts in mediation and collaborative law who can help you to follow a non-confrontational approach to resolving your relationship issues wherever possible, minimising the emotional fallout and the risks of lasting acrimony between you and your former spouse. This can be especially important where you have children who you will need to continue co-parenting together.

However, where court action is the best or only option to pursue your divorce, we have the expertise and experience to put together the strongest possible case for you, to help ensure you get a fair settlement.


Useful links to help understand divorce and civil partnerships:

Office of National Statistics on Divorce

History of Divorce

Grounds for Divorce

What are the main divorce steps?

Citizens Advice & Divorce

Divorce Online



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