Divorce rates are the highest they’ve been in six years. Source: cottonbro from Pexels

The number of couples divorcing in England and Wales has sharply risen to its highest level since 2014.

Divorces between heterosexual partners in 2019 has increased by 18.4% from the previous year to 107,599, according to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The most common grounds for these divorces was cited as unreasonable behaviour – which includes infidelity.

49% of wives and 35% of husbands petitioned on these grounds.

 The number of divorces of opposite-sex couples increased in 2019 following a downward slope in previous years.


Figures similarly show that the number of divorces among same-sex couples has increased to almost double, rising from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019 – of these, 72% were female relationships.

The number of same-sex divorces has continuously increased since 2015, but this may be a mirror to the increase in marriages.


Unreasonable behaviour was also listed as the main reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 63% among women and 70% among men.

Holly Roberts, a 35-year old lecturer in psychology, said: “Divorce rates rise like this for many reasons.

“One of which is that we live in a consumerist culture.

“In the growth of social media, our society has become more individualistic and materialistic than ever – we have a tendency to focus on what we lack, rather than what we have in front of us.”

The ONS has stated, however, that the scale of this overall increase in divorces “partly reflects divorce centres processing a backlog of casework in 2018.”

This has meant that many divorces became legally complete in 2019 – an obvious contribution to the fluctuating numbers over the last two years.

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973 a person currently seeking divorce can only do so if it can be proven that their partner either committed adultery, deserted them, or presented unreasonable behaviour.

If there is no evidence of fault, the couple must wait until they have been separated for two years (with consent to divorce) or five years (without).

This is set to change in Autumn 2021, after Parliament approved the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill that states couples can file for a ‘no fault’ divorce.

Such a bill means that divorce proceedings will not apportion blame to either party and there will be an option for a joint application.