6 April 2022 saw the biggest change in family law since 1973 (the Matrimonial Causes Act for those paying attention). Separating couples can now divorce without having to blame the other for the relationship breakdown or wait two years for the pleasure.
Data from HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service) shows that in April 2022, there was a 92% increase in the number of applications for divorce compared to in April 2021. But why?
No-fault divorce was big news and family lawyers across the country were shouting from the roof tops. Imagine the discomfort felt by so many under the old rules, when they were told to list all of the things that the other had done to wind them up. There were of course a few whose eyes lit up with glee at the thought of finally putting pen to paper, but for the vast majority this was a painful and unhelpful exercise.
While this is clearly a significant increase, it is not necessarily surprising. Although the law only came into force in April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act was passed in June 2020, and was announced as early as 2019. Knowing this, many opted to wait until they could do so in more amicable circumstances. Under the new system, parties can submit joint applications so neither are on the receiving end, and can even see one lawyer between the two (in certain circumstances). Just think of the benefits this could bring in reaching settlements and agreeing arrangements for children if both get started on the right foot.
Since the current surge in the number of divorce applications is likely driven by couples having chosen to wait for no-fault divorce, it is unlikely that rates will remain as inflated long-term. However, future data will show whether or not this is the case.
Thank you to Gemma Wright for researching this data.