New divorce stats show laws on cohabitation & fault-based divorce need to change, say family lawyers
Today’s official statistics on the number of divorces in England and Wales show there were 106,959 divorces among opposite-sex couples in 2016 – up 5.8% from 2015.
Commenting on the rise, Nigel Shepherd, Chair of the family justice campaign group Resolution, said:
“Although the numbers of divorces, and the divorce rate, are up on 2015, both are still far lower than their recent peak of 2003. As the ONS recognises, this is almost certainly due, in part, to the rise in the number of cohabiting couples - the fastest growing family type in the UK.
“Yet despite this, there is still little or no legal protection for cohabitants should they separate. What’s more, many are living together while still believing there is such a thing as common-law marriage in this country and that as a result they have rights – there isn’t and they don't. Action needs to be taken to change this.
“It’s also important to recognise that behind these statistics, there are tens of thousands of couples who are currently discouraged by the current system from taking a non-confrontational approach to divorce. For many separating couples, the need to apportion blame on the divorce petition can introduce unnecessary conflict, which adds to the stress and heartache for the couple themselves and, crucially, any children they may have.
“For decades, 'unreasonable behaviour' has been the most common reason for divorce among opposite-sex couples, yet many are forced into playing this ‘blame game’ by our archaic divorce laws.
“That’s why we have repeatedly called on government to legislate for no-fault divorce, and will continue to do so. This call is echoed by senior legal figures, such as Baroness Hale, the President of the Supreme Court, and Sir Paul Coleridge, the Chair of the Marriage Foundation.
“In the face of such overwhelming support, and with the Supreme Court due next Spring to hear the appeal of Mrs Owens, whose divorce has been denied because of the current law, the government needs to listen and take action.
“It’s time to make no-fault the default.”