Written by, Bojana Atanasovska
Updated August, 3, 2022
Are you looking to book a one-way ticket to Splitsville, but you’re wondering, “How much does a divorce cost in the UK?” Or are you considering getting hitched, but first want to find out what percentage of marriages end in divorce? Look no further—we’ve put together the ultimate collection of UK divorce statistics that will answer all of your burning questions on this topic.
Let’s wade in!
When it comes to the UK divorce rate, it’s at its lowest level in nearly half a century. According to the most recent available statistics, as of 2012, over four out of ten marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Almost half of these breakups tend to happen in the first decade of marriage.
(ONS) (Scottish Government) (NISRA)
The number of marriages going through the divorce process grew by almost a fifth in 2019 compared to the year prior. According to the latest ONS divorce statistics, 108,421 couples in England and Wales got divorced in 2019. Meanwhile, the official data show 7,379 divorces registered in Scotland in 2018-2019 and 2,357 in Northern Ireland in 2019.
(ONS) (Scottish Government)
Namely, 107,599 opposite-sex couples in England and Wales divorced in 2019, up 18.4% from the previous year’s 90,871. It’s the highest divorce rate since 2014, when 111,169 divorces were granted. The situation was similar in Scotland, where 7,288 opposite-sex marriages ended in 2018-19.
The year wasn’t a good one for same-sex couples either—the number of such divorces in England and Wales almost doubled from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019. In Scotland, in turn, rates skyrocketed from just eight same-sex couples divorcing in 2017-18 to as many as 35 doing so the following year.
Expectedly, then, the 45-49 age range had the highest numbers of 10,946 freshly divorced women and 11,169 newly single men in 2019. By the same token, people in their forties had the highest marriage termination rate of all age groups that year, at 1.3%.
In general, men get divorced at a later age than women, both in opposite-sex and same-sex pairings. Specifically, the mean age of men who divorced each other in 2018 was 40.7, while of women who did the same—38.3 years.
Women have been more likely to file for divorce in opposite-sex marriages in England and Wales since 1949, peaking at 72% of all petitions in 1992. Precisely 62% of opposite-sex divorces in both 2018 and 2019 were petitioned by the wife.
The number of same-sex divorce proceedings in England and Wales has been increasing year after year, reflecting the growing size of the same-sex married population since March 2014. Women account for the majority of divorces among same-sex couples every year. Specifically, 74% of the 338 same-sex divorces in 2017 were between ladies.
People who have tied the knot before are much less likely to get divorced if they marry again. Namely, according to a study by the UK’s Marriage Foundation, if partners were remarrying, they only had a 31% chance of getting a divorce, compared to 45% of splits involving spouses who had walked down the aisle for the first time.
Interestingly, the most crucial factor for a marriage’s longevity was the couple’s age—the older the newlyweds, the better.
Uncontested divorces are a relatively straightforward process. If both parties agree to a divorce and the reasons for it, the timeline from filing for divorce to legally finalising the divorce process shouldn’t take more than half a year. However, if the couple struggles to resolve financial, pension, child custody or other matters, it can take much longer.
The number of same-sex couples ending a civil partnership in England and Wales in 2019 was 916, a 1.2% decrease from the 927 granted in 2018. The dissolutions rate in 2019 showed an overall downward trend of 30% since their peak at 1,313 recorded in 2016.
Since the first civil partnership dissolution was granted in 2007, more of them have happened between female partners than male ones. Female couples were responsible for 54% of all dissolutions in 2019, although historically, a more significant number of men have formed civil partnerships.
Compared to 2016, this was a decline of 2.8%. According to UK marriage statistics from the ONS, the downward trend correlated with a 9.5% decrease in religious ceremonies and a 0.6% drop in civil unions.
The rate of opposite-sex marriages being formed in England and Wales hit a historic low in 2017 at 21.2 per 1,000 unmarried men and 19.5 per 1,000 unmarried women. With 235,910 nuptials registered, such couples accounted for 97% of marriages that year. The average age of the bride in an opposite-sex wedding was 35.7, while of the groom 38 years.
In addition, UK marriage statistics show that 6,932 same-sex couples got hitched in 2017 as well. Male couples accounted for 44% of marriages, while female ones for 56%. On top of that, another 1,072 pairs converted their civil partnerships into marriages.
The average marriage in England and Wales is expected to last a little over three decades before ending in divorce or death. By the 20th wedding anniversary, 34% of marriages will have ended due to the couple filing for divorce and 6% due to the passing of a spouse. Hence, 60% of married couples are likely to reach that milestone.
If you never marry, you’ll never have to apply for divorce, right? ONS data shows that the number of unwed couples living together is growing faster than that of married couple and lone parent families, having seen an increase of 25.8% between 2008 and 2018.
Behind married/civil partner couple families at 67.1%, cohabiting couple families were the second most significant family type in 2018 at 3.4 million or 17.9%. This is because many partners nowadays elect to simply live together rather than exchange vows or move in together before they do, especially if they’re younger.
Unreasonable behaviour was the reason cited in 44% of divorce forms in England and Wales in 2019, as 35% of husbands and 49% of wives in opposite-sex marriages petitioned for divorce on these grounds. In turn, 70% of male same-sex couples and 63% of female ones stated it as the cause of their relationship breakdown.
(ONS) (Nimblefins) (GOV.UK)
Until the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill comes into force and allows no-fault divorce in England and Wales, when you’re filling out, say, an online divorce form, you must list a reason for petitioning from among the following options (in addition to unreasonable behaviour, which we’ve already covered):
So how much does a divorce cost in the UK as of 2020? The minimum divorce application fee in England and Wales is £550. No matter how you go about it, these are mandatory court fee costs that must be paid, and they cover the court service and cost of divorce processing.
Usually, the person who petitions pays the divorce fee when submitting the divorce papers to court. Low-income petitioners may be eligible for financial assistance.
(Help and Advice)
The cost of the divorce petition is separate from that of the divorce lawyer. Every lawyer has their own fee.
Divorce solicitors based in central London charge £500 before VAT or even more per hour. Other lawyers based outside of London have a smaller fee that can run between £150 and £350 pre-VAT. The cost of a divorce lawyer depends on the rates charged by the firm and the solicitor’s experience.
Suppose both spouses have agreed to end the marriage and their finances are straightforward. In that case, it shouldn’t be a problem to figure out how to get a divorce relatively quickly and cheaply. Of course, they’ll still need to go through the legal procedure of getting divorced or having the marriage dissolved.
Still, they can skip using the services of divorce solicitors outright. The £550 fixed fee for a divorce still needs to be paid by the petitioner, however. Online divorce services can set them back another £80-800, depending on their level of involvement.
(Money Advice Service)
Yes, it matters whether you’re the petitioner or the respondent. The spouse who files for the divorce, i.e. the petitioner, might pay £450-£950 in solicitor fees on top of the main £550 divorce fee. Thus, the total divorce prices are from £1,000 to £1,500.
The other spouse is the respondent. Their legal fees are generally lower than those of the spouse filing for divorce, the typical cost being between £240 and £600. If both parties agree on all major issues, an uncontested divorce procedure won’t cost them more than that.
(Money Advice Service)
A contested divorce in the UK is the most expensive route to take. The court fee costs start at £255 for the application alone. On top of that, the counsel’s fee can hike up the cost of the divorce by up to £10,000-£15,000.
And that’s if the matter is settled at a negotiation hearing. If not, there will be further trips to court before the full contested final hearing, where a judge makes the final decision. All of this will amount to a staggering £25,000-£30,000 in solicitor and court fee costs.
(Money Advice Service)
Another way to save on divorce costs is to turn to a mediator instead of enlisting the services of a divorce lawyer since it does away with the need to go to court. An initial fee of £50-£120 is paid to assess whether the case is suitable for it or not.
Depending on how many meetings are needed, the divorce mediation cost can range from £300-£1,500. Nevertheless, it’s a small price to pay compared to the thousands charged if the case goes to court.
According to a 2018 survey by an insurance company on the real cost of a marriage separation, there are hidden expenses that go with it. For example, it found that over two-thirds (68%) of divorcing duos had to resolve financial matters. So, how long does a divorce take in that case? Usually as long as 14.5 months.
Beyond the average legal cost of a divorce at £2,679 (up from £1,280 in 2014), one partner usually had to find a new place to live. 51% of them chose to rent, preferring the annual outlay of £7,519 over that on a new home of a hefty £144,600.
Therefore, if you’ve been wondering “How much is a divorce,” you must factor in things like having to buy your own car or going separately on holiday if you want a more accurate assessment. On the other hand, at least you’ll save on Valentine’s Day gifts.
A marriage breaking down is never a pleasant thing to go through. However, even the most amicable divorce comes with a high personal and financial toll. How much does a divorce cost in the UK, then? As you saw from these statistics, it varies considerably, based on how complicated the case is and the type of divorce you’re seeking.
Uncoupling from someone isn’t a matter you’ll want to take lightly. The emotional stakes and amount of money on the line are reasons enough to seek skilled counsel for divorce advice. It’d be wise to do your research before committing.
Bojana is my name and writing is my game. I am a content writer from Bitola who is always interested in the latest research in almost all areas of life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and a perfectionist character, both of which help me find the most accurate data and information available. Although I have my head stuck in studies and reports most of the time, I still have a bit of free time during which I enjoy knitting and watching classic 90’s Disney movies.