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Why 2019 is set to become the year the divorce rate soars

Emma-Lou Montgomery

Emma-Lou Montgomery - Fidelity Personal Investing

According to the latest figures, just released today, the number of people getting divorced in 2018 was the lowest we’ve seen since 1971. But before you get all misty-eyed about the romantic sticking power of today’s wedded couples, here’s a reality check.


While the official figures show there were 90,871 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2018, a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017 and the lowest number since 1971, the divorce stats are what you could call fake news. And the information recorded by HM Courts and Tribunals Service corroborates that.

The drop in numbers is all because of an administrative backlog. In actual fact, divorce centres processed a backlog of work in 2018 resulting in 8% more divorce petitions and that is expected to translate into an even higher number of completed divorces in 2019.

The backlog stems from reforms introduced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in 2015 which were supposed to streamline the system, cut costs and save judicial time. Up until 2015, couples wanting to divorce went to one of 47 regional courts across the country. But these have been centralised into just 11 Regional Divorce Centres, which handle all the country’s divorce cases. 

Rather than saving time that has, in reality, led to a bottle-neck of cases which has seen couples having to wait for more than a year for their divorce to be finalised.

Family court figures, published by The Telegraph back in April of this year, showed that couples were waiting up to 56 weeks until their divorce was finalised. That compares to 2013 when the average wait from petition to Decree Absolute was 48 weeks.

As anyone who has gone through, or is going through divorce knows, it is an emotionally and financially fraught time and research carried out by Fidelity shows that women are most financially exposed when it comes to divorce and separation.

Research carried out as part of our Women & Money campaign found a third (33%) of women in relationships would not feel financially stable in the event of a marriage breakdown.

Most vulnerable are women between 55-64-years old. Some 42% were likely to be financially vulnerable in the event of a break-up. That compares to 41% of 35-44-year olds and 40% of those aged 45-54 years old also admitted they would be financially unstable if their relationship ended tomorrow.

Men don’t get off scot free of course, but here 19% said they would be unable to support themselves financially in the event of a relationship breakdown.

Being financially independent is key. So whether you’re going through a relationship break-up, you’re happily married or about to tie the knot, it’s crucial that you ensure you have the financial capacity to stand on your own two feet, should the worst happen.

For more on why you need to #getINvested take a look at Fidelity’s Women & Money section and follow us on Instagram.

Important Information

The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. With ISAs and pensions tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and all tax rules may change in the future. Withdrawals from a pension product will not be possible until you reach age 55. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.

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