The number of same-sex couples divorcing in England and Wales almost doubled in 2019 – and is likely to keep rising.
Same-sex marriage has only been fully legal in the country since 2014, with civil partnerships available before.
And as the years go on, more couples are splitting up. But a large part of the reason is that there are now far more same-sex married couples.
The new official figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed 822 same-sex divorces in 2019. That’s compared to just 428 in 2018.
Kanak Ghosh from the ONS’ Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, said:
‘Same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014.
‘Since then, we have seen the number of divorces of same-sex couples increase each year from very small numbers in 2015 when the first divorces took place, to more than 800 in 2019, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population in England and Wales.’
Interestingly, the stats also show 72% of same-sex divorces were between female couples.
‘While we see that 56% of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples.
‘Unreasonable behaviour, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.’
Women more likely to initiate divorce
Indeed, unreasonable behavior accounted for 63% of same-sex divorces among women and 70% among men.
In fact, the same-sex couples’ stats have more in common with opposite-sex couples’ divorce rates than immediately meets the eye.
For example, unreasonable behaviour is the most common reason for opposite-sex couples to split too. In 2019, 49% of wives and 35% of husbands to ask for a divorce did so on those grounds.
Meanwhile top family lawyer, Stephanie Buckeridge, highlighted another similarity:
‘Nearly three quarters of same-sex couples divorcing are female, which is the same trend as those published in 2017.
‘This supports studies that show that women initiate divorce 70% to 80% of the time compared to men.
‘Many sociologists also believe women tend to commit to relationships sooner and have higher expectations from relationships.’
Rates will continue to rise
Experts predict same-sex divorce rates will continue to rise – largely because there are more same-sex marriages with every passing year.
However, Buckeridge, from Gardner Leader Solicitors, also warns even higher divorce rates are coming for all couples:
‘Divorce rates will undoubtedly continue to rise this year into next year among all couples as we move through the pandemic.
‘Despite many families facing hardship through the pandemic for example, due to being furloughed or loss of job, we’ve seen a huge surge in divorce enquiries and applications this year, especially since the first March UK lockdown.
‘This surge is rising again during the latest November lockdown.
‘The pandemic, forcing families to live in lockdown, and the subsequent demands and childcare issues this has caused has had untold pressure on family dynamics which in many instances the relationships have been unable to survive.’