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Cost of living crisis set to push divorces up even as numbers hit decade high

Some divorce specialists believe the cost of living crisis will push divorce numbers up, even after a decade-high number of applications between April-June.  (Rolandas Misius / Alamy / PA)
Some divorce specialists believe the cost of living crisis will push divorce numbers up, even after a decade-high number of applications between April-June. (Rolandas Misius / Alamy / PA)

Divorce specialists are predicting that the brutal squeeze on household finances will push marriage breakdown rates up, even after they hit a 10-year high.

New data from the Ministry of Justice shows that there were more than 33,200 applications between April and June, which statisticians called the “highest number of applictions in a decade”.

A string of lockdowns over the coronavirus pandemic put strain on many relationships, but experts now believe that with the cost of living crisis biting, that more marriages could end in divorce.

Tahina Akther, barrister and co-founder at Wildcat Law, acknowledged that some of the applications in this latest data were due to couples holding back applications until new legislation took hold in April, which included allowing couples to end their marriages jointly and to pursue ‘no fault’ divorces, but that this did not entirely explain the spike.

The real driver has been the impact of lockdowns and now financial problems putting ever more pressure on relationships,” she said.

“The cost of living crisis is causing many a relationship crisis; expect divorce figures to go up even more, especially next year.

“Historically, we have always seen increased divorce rates during recessions and this financial crisis is proving the rule.”

Akther said a “significant increase in enquiries” had led her firm to rapidly expand its family law team.

A total of 33,234 applications were made under the new legislation, a figure which rose to 33,566 when applications under the old legislation were included.

Even though couples can end their marriages jointly now, nearly four out of every five applications (78 per cent) in this period came from sole applicants.

Akther added that married couples were the “tip of the iceberg” given that non-married couples were separating at an equally fast rate.

Fotoulla Menikou, famil law solicitor at The Friendly Family Lawyer, thought the rise was largely due to couples waiting for the no-fault legislation to take hold.

“Many couples opted to wait until the new legislation was implemented to issue proceedings,” she said.

“This was often on the advice of their solicitor where aplictions were not urgent, to prevent the possibility of the divorce being contested.”

Either way, the rise could present problems for the judicial system, with the Ministry of Justice stating that the average time for a private law case to get a final order granted is up almost six weeks from the same April-June period last year - a record high.

This means that in the past year, the time it takes to secure a divorce has risen 11 weeks, the MoJ added.