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Marriage and Family

MoJ figures show an increase in divorce petitions

3 April 2019

The latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show an 8 per cent rise in divorce petitions in 2018 compared to 2017, the biggest increase for 15 years. There were 118,141 divorce petitions made last year, 8,788 more than 2017.

At the same time, the number of divorces recorded as completed fell last year to below 100,000 to 98,919 for the first time since 1971.

Marriage declining among younger people

The Marriage Foundation has also released their own report, which extrapolates on ONS data to predict that just 57 per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys currently aged 13-18 will ever get married. This is an astoundingly steep decline compared to older generations. 91 per cent of women and 86 per cent of men currently in their sixties have ever been married.

The report also highlights the near zero levels of marriage for those under 25, only 8 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men in that age bracket have gotten married.

These figures contrast starkly with previous research which has shown that most teens maintain aspirations to get married. One recent Seddons survey found that 77 per cent of unmarried 18-24 year-olds wanted to get married at some point.

This trend away from marriage and towards cohabitation is, sadly, putting our young people on the road towards broken relationships and broken families. Cohabiting is an extremely unstable commitment compared to marriage.

Founder of the Marriage Foundation, Sir Paul Coleridge, said: ‘Teenagers have bought into the myth that informal cohabitation delivers the same long-term security for their families, when that arrangement is three times more likely to end before their children become teenagers.’

No fault divorce proposals

Faced with the double whammy of a 15 year high in divorce petition statistics and the trend away from marriage towards cohabitation, the Government should be doing far more to support marriage.

Instead, the Ministry of Justice wants to make it easier to get a divorce. Last year the Government consulted on their proposals for on demand ‘no-reason’ divorce and were due to report back on 8 March, however no response has yet been published. Ministers have even admitted that under the plans, there would be a spike in the number of divorces.

There is also the on-going discrimination in the UK tax system against one-earner married couples with two children, who face a tax burden 30% higher than the OECD average. CARE’s latest report highlights that marriage is fiscally unattractive, which acts as an unnecessary deterrent to getting married.

CARE’s response from our Family Policy Officer, Jonathan Williams:

“Taken together these statistics reveal a bleak picture of the state of marriage in our nation.

“There is clearly a huge mismatch between marriage aspiration and actual marriage rates and the Government does not seem to be paying attention.

“There is so much that could be done to ensure that divorce rates do not rise and the Marriage Foundation’s predictions on future generations marriage rates do not come true.

“The Government needs to back up its rhetoric and deliver on promises to uphold marriage for all society.”

Find out more:

Read the most recent blog from our Family Policy Officer Jonathan Williams on the challenge of cohabiting and commitment.


Marriage and Family

Strong families are foundational to a healthy society. Marriages too are vital, representing the gold standard of commitment. CARE is committed to upholding both.

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