The number of divorces in England and Wales has seen its largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years, according to new research.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that divorces among heterosexual couples rose by 18.4% from 90,871 in 2018 to 107,599 last year.
This is the highest number since 2014, when 111,169 divorces were granted in England and Wales.
It was also the largest annual percentage increase in the number of divorces since 1972, following the Divorce Reform Act 1969 which made it easier for couples to divorce upon separation, the ONS has said.
Divorce among same-sex couples in England and Wales has doubled – from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019.
Almost three-quarters (72%) were among female couples.
The ONS say that these increases can be partially due to there being a backlog of casework in 2018, which would have resulted in a higher number of separations last year.
It said: “The size of the increase can be partly attributed to a backlog of divorce petitions from 2017 that were processed by the Ministry of Justice in early 2018, some of which will have translated into decree absolutes (completed divorces) in 2019.
“This is likely to have contributed to both the particularly low number of divorces in 2018 (the lowest since 1971) and the increase seen in 2019.”
The ONS also added that the introduction of same-sex marriages in March 2014 increased the population of same-sex couples getting married – a contributing factor to the rise in separations.
Kanak Ghosh – from the ONS’ vital statistics outputs branch – said: “While we see that 56% of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples.
“Unreasonable behaviour, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year, as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.”
The data shows that this was the cause of divorce among 63% of same-sex male relationships, and slightly higher for women, at 70%.
This was also a common theme among opposite-sex couples.
It is reported 49% of wives and 35% of husbands in heterosexual marriages called for divorce citing this reason.
2003 saw the highest number of divorces granted – 153,065.
The ONS attribute a rise in cohabitation among couples as the reason – reporting from 2017 that almost nine in 10 couples (88%) “were cohabiting before marriage”.