How Many Marriages End in Divorce in the UK?

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Marriage is a commitment intended to last a lifetime, yet for many, this journey may not always lead to the ‘happily ever after.’ Divorce is a common reality in modern society, affecting many people in the UK. Statistics paint a revealing picture of marital stability in the region, where recent data suggests shifts in divorce rates and patterns.

Let’s explore the number of marriages in the UK and understand the underlying trends that influence changes in divorce rates across the UK.

Divorce Rates in the UK

In 2022, the number of divorces in England and Wales significantly dropped, reaching the lowest level since 1971. There were 80,057 divorces, which was a decrease of 29.5% compared to the 113,505 divorces in 2021.

The rate of divorce per 1,000 married individuals also decreased to 6.7 for men and 6.6 for women, down from 9.5 and 9.4 the previous year, covering both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

The number of civil partnerships dissolved in 2022 also fell to 525, a 22.8% decrease from 680 in 2021 and the lowest number since 2010. 

The drop in divorces and dissolutions could be largely due to the introduction of the new Divorce Act in April 2022. This new law brought in important changes, such as longer waiting periods during the divorce process and the option for couples to apply for a divorce together.


How Many Marriages End in Divorce in the UK?

While it’s often said that half of all marriages in the UK end in divorce, the actual figures paint a slightly different picture. As of 2021, the percentage of marriages ending in divorce was around 42%, which is below the often cited “half” but still significant.

Looking more closely at recent figures, there’s been a noticeable decrease in divorce rates. In 2022, the rates fell to 6.7 divorces per 1,000 married men and 6.6 per 1,000 married women. These are the lowest figures seen since 1971, and they represent a sharp decline from the rates in 2021. Such a significant drop might initially seem like a positive trend toward more stable marriages.

Related article: Different Types of Child Custody Arrangements After Divorce in the UK

However, it’s important to understand that these fluctuations in divorce rates can be influenced by factors beyond the quality of marriages. For example, administrative delays in processing divorces in 2017 and 2018 and the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 have affected how and when divorces were finalised.

These anomalies highlight that the recent dip in divorce rates might not solely reflect an improvement in marital stability but could also be attributed to temporary external factors.


Which City Has the Highest Divorce Rate in the UK?

Certain cities in the UK stand out for their notably high divorce rates. Norwich tops the list, with 12.8% of marriages ending in divorce. This statistic places Norwich at the top of the list for marital dissolutions in the country.

Also read: How Do I find Divorce Records for Free in the UK

Hastings and Blackpool follow closely, each with a divorce rate of 12.1%. These cities share the second-highest rate, indicating a similar trend in marital breakdowns. Other cities with high divorce rates include Lincoln, Gosport, Eastbourne, Portsmouth, etc. 


Most Common Grounds of Divorce in the UK

There can be various reasons behind a divorce. While recent changes in UK law allow couples to divorce without listing the reasons on their petition, the primary factors contributing to marital breakdowns in previous years were:

  1. Unreasonable Behaviour: This is the most frequently cited cause of divorce. Unreasonable behaviour includes various activities in which one spouse acts in such a way that the other partner cannot fairly be expected to continue living with them. This includes physical violence, verbal abuse, addiction, or economic irresponsibility, such as refusing to contribute to household expenses.
  2. Adultery: Known for breaking trust within the marriage, adultery is another common ground for divorce. It involves one partner having sexual relations outside the marriage, which can irreparably damage the relationship. 
  3. Desertion: Although less common, desertion is a ground for divorce when one partner abandons the other without reasonable justification, with no intention of returning, and has been absent for more than two out of the last two and a half years. Desertion involves a clear unilateral decision by one partner to end the relationship.

Consult London divorce lawyers for more detailed information and advice on these grounds for divorce.

Divorce Rate in the UK Compared to Other Developed Countries

Recent research by the Marriage Foundation, utilising comprehensive data from Eurostat, highlights a significant trend across Europe and the UK: divorce rates during the first 15 years of marriage are declining. The UK, in particular, is at the forefront of this trend, exhibiting the most substantial reduction in divorce rates over the past 25 years.

During the initial five years of marriage, divorce rates have declined in 15 out of the 20 nations surveyed in the study. This new analysis provides a much more accurate picture of divorce trends compared to previous data.

The statistics for the UK are telling. Couples who married in 1992 experienced a divorce rate of 30.7% within the first 15 years of marriage, ranking as the third highest among the countries analysed. A decade later, the rate of couples marrying in 2002 dropped to 28.1%. More recently, for those who wedded in 2017, the projected divorce rate is 22.5%.

The report also reveals regional variations within Europe. Scandinavian and Northern European countries, including Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Belgium, and Denmark, have consistently higher divorce rates.

In contrast, countries with a strong Catholic influence typically show lower divorce rates, though Spain is an exception to this trend. Among these, Slovakia, Poland, Italy, and Romania report the lowest rates, with Romania projecting a divorce rate of just 14% for couples married in 2017. Meanwhile, Sweden exhibits the highest projected rate at 36%.


Speak With Our Expert Family Law Solicitors

Dealing with family law matters can be emotionally demanding and complex. Expert legal support is essential if you find yourself in a situation involving divorce, custody issues, or any other family law concern.

At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, our team of experienced family law solicitors is ready to provide you with professional guidance and compassionate support. We specialise in all areas of family law and are committed to delivering personalised and effective legal advice tailored to the specifics of your case.

Contact Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors today to set up your consultation and start addressing your family law issues confidently and clearly.


In 2022, the number of couples divorced was 80,057 in England and Wales, a significant 29.5% decrease from the previous year’s 113,505 divorces.

According to UK divorce statistics by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the median duration of unions that concluded with divorce in 2022 was 12.9 years for opposite-sex couples, the longest seen in recent years. For same-sex couples, the median duration was 7.5 years for males and 6.3 years for females.

Yes, divorce rates in the UK have been decreasing. In 2022, the overall divorce rate for all couples was 6.7 men and 6.6 women per 1,000 married people, the lowest since 1971. The main reason behind this is the lower marriage rate.

Over time, the percentage of weddings concluded in divorce before their 25th anniversary has increased. For example, couples who tied the knot in 1963 had a 23% chance of divorcing before their 25th anniversary, compared to 41% for couples who wedded in 1997. 

While divorce applications are generally lower for same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex couples, the rates have increased in recent years. However, the reasons and dynamics behind divorces may vary between different types of couples, and ongoing research continues to explore these differences.

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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