Did Covid-19 lockdowns cause a surge in divorce?

At various points from early 2020 to mid-2021, the UK found itself in a nationwide lockdown.

This led to remote working being implemented for many and required households to only leave the house for essential activities, such as exercise and shopping.

So did this tumultuous and unprecedented time impact divorce rates?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing that 113,505 divorces were finalised in 2021, which is an increase of 9.6 per cent compared to 2020.

This could have been impacted by the start of the pandemic in 2020 disrupting divorce cases and having a knock-on effect on couples who decided to divorce in the year of 2020 but waited until restrictions lifted.

The courts saw delays during the pandemic for a range of cases, not limited to divorce but it is likely that couples who would otherwise have immediately petitioned for divorce and moved out of a shared home chose to delay this in light of the pandemic.

It is also thought that the increase seen in 2021 could have been even greater if it weren’t for the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce in April 2022.

Couples can now file for divorce together with a joint application, taking away the need for blame in an already difficult process.

Many couples will have seen this as a more favourable way to process their divorce and waited until it came into effect, even if they decided to divorce months previously.

Opposite-sex couples made up the majority of the divorce figures from 2021, with only 1,571 same-sex couples divorcing in 2021.

However, claims that there has been a boom in divorce due to the global pandemic have also been met with scepticism.

Research from the Marriage Foundation, a pro-marriage charity, saw that 20 per cent of married parents said their relationship improved in lockdown compared to nine per cent who admitted it worsened.

They also found that the number of couples actively considering divorce has fallen by two-thirds.

This research suggests that the delays in the courts and being unable to move out of households during lockdown is the reason why divorce increased so much in 2021.

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