West Mids Divorce Hotspots Revealed As New Data Shows Dramatic Drop In Applications

14 March 2024

·         Newly-published ONS statistics show a 30% decrease in divorces in 2022, following the introduction of no-fault divorce

·         Latest Census data reveals West Midlands divorce hotspots, with Worcester topping the table

·         29% of divorces were granted under newly-introduced ‘joint applications’

·         Danger of financial claims still remaining “live” between couples who choose a DIY divorce.

The latest release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows divorces plummeted in 2022, following the introduction of ‘no fault divorce’ in April that year. The data, which covers January – December 2022, shows that divorces dropped by 30% compared with the previous year – the lowest number since 1971.

In conjunction with these statistics, the latest figures from the 2021 Census have unveiled the regional divorce landscape. Worcester has the highest divorce rate (10.5%) in the West Midlands.

This is followed by Telford and Wrekin, Wyre Forest, and Redditch with 10.5%, 10.4% and 10.3%, respectively. According to the data, the area with the lowest divorce rate in the region is Solihull, with 7.9%. Stratford-upon-Avon places 17th in the West Midlands with 9%, while Birmingham sits fourth-bottom in the table with 8.5%.

Leading family lawyers are speculating that plummeting divorce rates could be reflective of changing attitudes to marriage, with many couples simply choosing to cohabit instead of tying the knot.

Stephanie Kyriacou, family associate at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, which has hubs in Birmingham, Solihull and Stratford-upon-Avon, said: “A drop this significant is hugely surprising and one we haven’t seen for many years.

“Whilst ‘no fault divorce’ legislation made it easier for people to separate, the ONS data suggests that fewer people may be choosing to get married in favour of other living arrangements. Coupled with the aftermath of the pandemic and cost of living crisis, marriage and divorce may be simply unaffordable for some people, which is reflected in the decrease in divorces.”

The statistics also show that 29% of divorces in 2022 were granted under joint application, which was introduced as part of the ‘no fault divorce’ legislation.

However, family lawyers from Shakespeare Martineau warn that whilst ‘no fault divorce’ has made the process easier and less blame-orientated, DIY divorce applications should come with health warnings for couples.

Finally introduced in April 2022, ‘no fault divorce’ represented a huge modernisation of the divorce system in England and Wales, bringing legislation in line with many other countries around the world. Under the new set of rules, separating couples no longer had to give evidence or reasons for the divorce, removing the need to apportion blame. Now, when filing for divorce, couples can cite an ‘irretrievable breakdown’. 

Stephanie said: “It’s definitely now easier to separate and a huge amount of mudslinging has been removed from the process. However, there are still health warnings for the process, particularly when parties are representing themselves and where there are complex financials.

“Spouses that are applying for a divorce need to ensure they are ticking the box for financial claims within the divorce application. Failing to do this could potentially mean they are giving up their right to make financial claims against their ex-partner, which could be disastrous if they are the financially weaker party.

“In addition, as the change in law has made it easier for parties to carry out their own divorce, many divorcing couples are failing to resolve financial matters by way of a legally binding financial order. This means they are unknowingly still financially tied to their ex-partner as financial claims will still remain ‘live’.”

Whilst getting a divorce may be easier now than ever before, there are still complications in the process, particularly where money is concerned. Pension pots, investments and property must all be taken into account to ensure that any outcome is as fair as possible. One option that separating couples can pursue is a financial order. A consent order (also known as a financial order) dictates how sums of money and assets should be distributed, after a divorce has been filed. 

“Who retains the family home is still arguably the most contentious area of any divorce, and that’s never likely to change,” said Stephanie.

“Even if a couple has simply fallen out of love, each party will still be wanting to get the best financial deal going forward. Particularly if there are children involved, or any complicated maintenance needs, it’s essential that everything is calculated correctly and early legal advice is sought.

“A financial order can be extremely helpful, but these are complicated legal documents and certainly require the help of a specialist family lawyer. It may be an additional cost, but the risks of getting it wrong can be severe. Likewise, getting a financial order in place after a divorce has been granted can be much trickier; it’s best to think about it from the start.

“’No fault divorce’ means people can now start the divorce process on a much more amicable footing. They can agree it’s broken down and then file for a divorce. Things are calmer from the beginning and that makes it much easier for lawyers to try and reach a settlement that works for everyone. However, there will always be critics and whilst it removes the ability of one party to contest the divorce, some argue that the new legislation has made separation too easy to attain.”

For more information, visit www.shma.co.uk.