Is divorce declining?

The number of divorces in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest rate since 1971 according to figures released yesterday. Is divorce declining in the UK?

According to the latest ONS divorce figures a total of 80,057 divorces occurred in 2022: 78,759 opposite sex divorces and a further 1,298 same sex divorces. That’s a significant fall from the 2021 figures of 111,934 and 1,571 respectively, and considerably down from 1993 when divorce rates peaked with 165,018 divorces granted.

The significant drop in the divorce rate is very surprising given that many commentators had believed that the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act in April 2022 would make the process of divorce easier by introducing no-fault divorce and ending the ‘blame game’.

It is perhaps even more surprising, given in the lead up to the new legislation, clients were ‘holding back’ applications for divorce, wanting to instead apply under the new no-fault regime. It was therefore, perhaps, expected that there would be an initial influx of divorces considering those who had been waiting, and that there would be an artificially higher number of people divorcing in 2022.

What did the new divorce law change?

Previously, the person applying for a divorce was required to give a reason as to why the relationship had irretrievably broken down: desertion, adultery, unreasonable behaviour, separation of 2 years with consent or separation of 5 years. This meant, amicable couples were waiting for 2 years to begin their divorce; whereas now they can apply straight away.

Further, the application for divorce does not include narratives of why the divorce is being requested. Neither party has the opportunity to vent or write extensive information about why a divorce is occurring. Previously, there may have been a rush with one party desperate to be the one who has applied for divorce; and it may be the change in focus on the divorce process has removed the rush to ‘get there first’. 

The new regime also allowed joint applications, which means instead of a perception of one person divorcing another; both have applied for the divorce together as a mutual decision. 

This year’s data also includes a figure for a ‘joint’ final order for the first time, with 2,039 joint orders recorded. Interestingly, females were almost twice as likely to apply the final order than men: 48,735 and 27,820.

Taking a closer look at who was responsible for making the applications, we see that sole applications were most common in opposite-sex divorces (71.7%), whereas joint applications were most common in make same-sex dissolutions (66.7%).

What are the options instead of court?

Victoria Walker, Partner in Moore Barlow’s Family Team says: “The ONS figures on no-fault divorce have seen a significant decline but it’s important to remember that these figures are already over a year behind what we’re currently witnessing.”

“Today, fewer and fewer couples want to ‘fight it out in court’, and rightly so, more people are moving towards a conscious approach, which uses mediation and helps both partners deal with what is undoubtedly an emotional time. This is, of course, a welcomed change spurred on by the no-fault divorce, especially where children are involved. We’re even seeing a rise in couples wanting to use one lawyer for the process, which is a completely new approach to divorce. 

The trend in the past was litigious and combative divorces within the court arena. The family courts are on their knees, and there are so many options available to clients, to help them resolve any disputes they have relating to dividing their financial assets; considered below.


A mediator is an independent and impartial third party, who facilitates conversations. The role of the mediator is to help the parties to reach an amicable agreement in a respectful and open way. Mediation is a voluntary process, and both parties must be willing to engage in it. However, it can be more cost effective than court proceedings and helps parties to reach a resolution together and retain the ability to work together to co parent their children. 

Find out more about Family mediation


Arbitration can be thought of as private court.  An arbitrator is selected who specialises in family law, and they make a decision on the issues.  The arbitrator is chosen by the parties and is someone who is impartial. An award is binding, and is quicker (and often cheaper) than the court process. 

Collaborative Law 

Collaborative law involves each party appointing a lawyer who has had specialist collaborative training and the parties and their lawyers all meet to work towards reaching an agreement.  This route is designed to avoid a lot of correspondence.  

Find out more about Collaborative law


In certain cases where the parties are amicable, one lawyer may be able to act for both by giving advice and preparing the court paperwork.  

Find out more about Accord – Divorce using the same lawyer

What factors may be impacting divorce?

Cost of living

We are seeing an increase in those who wish to understand the divorce process; and how it will impact them financially. Within the current economic climate, we are seeing a trend of people seeking that initial advice before deciding to separate. This may mean that divorce rates have fallen because a married couple cannot afford to divorce and split their assets within the economic climate. Factors such as house prices, mortgage rates, salary increases and general cost of living all impact a family’s ability to resource themselves when one home becomes two. 

No blame divorce

Parties can now wait until they are ready to apply for the divorce and can do this together. There is no longer a ‘race’ for one person to divorce the other; or for tensions to be heightened by one person wanting to vent via a divorce petition. It may be that this change in tone of the proceedings means parties are less likely to rush to issue their divorce, and instead take the time they need as a family to separate and consider how they want to deal with their finances; and move forward as co-parents if applicable.  

Less people marrying 

Within the UK, the more modern-day family dynamic involves a cohabiting couple. Marriage is on the decline. If marriage continues to fall, it is likely so too will the divorce rate. 

How can Moore Barlow help?

Our expert family solicitors have a wide range of experience in dispute resolution, including trained mediators and collaborative lawyers. Our team can discuss your particular needs and advise you on the options available to you.

If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact one of the team who would be pleased to discuss your needs