Divorces granted to wives has nearly halved since 1993

The Marriage Foundation recently commissioned new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to discover the number of divorces in England and Wales, the duration of the marriages, and whether the divorce was granted to the husband or wife.

In 2017, there were 55,689 fewer divorces granted to wives compared with the peak year of 1993; a 47 per cent drop from 118,401 to 62,712. According to the recent report from The Marriage Foundation, there was only a 15 per cent fall in divorces granted to husbands (from 46,271 to 38,957) during the same period.

Divorces granted by previous marital status

The ONS data was broken down into three main categories to determine the difference in divorce figures when marital status before marriage was considered:

  1. Single
  2. Divorced
  3. Widowed

Previously Single Marital Status

During 2017, the research revealed 23,329 first-time husbands who filed for divorce were divorcing a woman who had also never been married before. This was a drop of more than 6,000 from 2012 when 29,721 divorces were granted to the husband. Although a higher figure, similar findings were found for previously single women. 37,217 wives were granted a divorce where both parties were in their first marriage in 2017; a fall of over 16,000 in just five years (53,930 were filed in 2012).

Previously Divorced Marital Status

3,417 men filed for divorce from a woman who had been married before; a small drop on the 3,767 recorded in 2012. Those previously single women who applied for divorce from a husband who had been married more than once fell 1,612 compared with 2012’s figures (from 7,366 to 5,754).

Previously Widowed Marital Status

The number of men granted a divorce where the woman had been previously widowed fell from 114 to 90 in five years. This compares with 96 that were granted to a first-time wife from their previously widowed husbands in 2017, 30 petitions less than half a decade ago.

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No evidence that children of single-parent households are negatively impacted, new study finds

A study conducted by Gingerbread – a charity supporting single-parent families – and the University of Sheffield, has revealed that the wellbeing of children living with a single parent is the same, if not higher, than those in a two-parent family household.

Key findings from the report

The study – named Family Portrait: Single parent families and transitions over time – was conducted over six years with more than 27,800 households with children examined. Released at the end of last year, the report measures the children’s wellbeing by looking at three key factors: ‘life satisfaction’, ‘feelings about their family’ and ‘the quality of relationships with peers’. On all accounts, the report concluded that there was no evidence that children’s wellbeing was negatively affected if they were living or have lived in a single-parent household compared with those living in two-parent families.

Children’s Wellbeing

The children in the study were asked to self-report on their wellbeing and rate their feelings on their family and peer relationships on a scale up to five.

For ‘life satisfaction’, children who had always lived with a single parent ranked higher than those who were in two-parent households. Children in single-parent families believed their life satisfaction sat at 2.22 out of 5. This was closely followed by those who had lived with a single parent at some point (2.19 out of 5) and then those living in two-parent households at 2.02 out of 5.

A similar pattern was revealed when asked how they feel about their family: those who had always lived with a single parent or had previously lived with a single parent were more positive – averaging at 1.71 – compared with those who had never lived with a single parent (1.54).

The final self-report saw children who lived in single-parent households have less problematic relationships among their peers than those in two-parent families. Children from two-parent households ranked peer problems at 4.62, followed by those who had always lived in a single parent family at 4.02 and then children who had previously lived with a single parent at 3.92.

Despite other data suggesting that 1 in 4 households are headed by single parents, the report noted around a third (32%) of families will have been a single parent family for at least some point over the six years examined. This concludes that single parenthood is much more common than is typically suggested.

1 in 7 single parents get married or cohabit

14% of single parents were reported to transition out of single parenthood by either getting married or cohabiting with a partner – and of these parents, almost three quarters re-partnered with the child’s biological parent.

The study looked at different family types over the course of six years and examined any changes in the family structure:

  • 84% of single parents due to bereavement remained single, while 16% re-partnered.
  • 94% of those married stayed the same, while 3% cohabited and 3% separated or divorced
  • 77% of those cohabiting remained in their living situation, while 11% married and 12% separated.

Consistent with official statistics, the study proved that cohabiting parents were the most likely family group to experience a change in their living situation. However, the report discovered that cohabiting was as important a route to marriage as single parenthood.

Professor Nathan Hughes from the University of Sheffield commented on the data:

“These findings have clear implications for how single-parent families should be understood, valued and supported. Stereotyping single parenthood as a problem is inaccurate and immoral.”

Chief Executive at Gingerbread, Rosie Ferguson, concluded:

“Our report with the University of Sheffield debunks myths about single-parent households and significantly, it shows that children are not negatively impacted if raised by a lone parent. What is important to a child’s wellbeing is the presence of positive relationships.”

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Damages for costs of raising a healthy child rejected

A man whose ex-partner had their embryos wrongfully implanted against his will has lost his appeal against the fertility clinic to be awarded damages for the pecuniary loss of bringing up his daughter.

The case ARB v IVF Hammersmith concerned a couple who had created embryos for use in their IVF treatment, but who separated before agreeing to begin the fertility treatment. Without the father’s consent, the mother had their IVF clinic breach their contract with the couple and implant some of the embryos, and she subsequently gave birth to a daughter. Eight years later, the father has lost his appeal to be awarded damages for the costs, past and future, incurred by bringing up the child.

Citing authorities including McFarlane v Tayside Health Board, the Court followed the precedent in tort that damages should not be awarded for the financial loss of raising a healthy child. The precedent is based on multiple contentious policy concerns, including recognising that the ‘blessing’ of a healthy child is such that it would be wrong to award damages for its existence.

These policy concerns have been met with resistance from some judges and academics, who argue that a child can be deeply valued and loved but still be financially expensive, and that the court should place the financial burden on the parties responsible for the wrongful conception, in this case, the IVF clinic who breached their contract.

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77 divorce applications filed on New Year’s Day

Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, 455 online divorce applications were lodged in England and Wales. According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), 26 people submitted applications on Christmas Eve, 13 on Christmas Day, 23 people filed on Boxing Day and 77 on New Year’s Day.

Amicable, a divorce support service, revealed that online searches for ‘divorce’ are 25% higher in January compared with any other time of the year. Relationship support charity, Relate, also report a 13% rise in calls and 58% spike in website users in the first month of every year. Experts believe that disputes arising from trying to create the perfect Christmas in addition to financial troubles over the festive break are the main reasons why married couples decide to split at this time of the year.

Simone Bose, a Relate counsellor, explained:

“No one’s saying that Christmas itself leads to divorce and separation, but if you’re already experiencing issues then added ‘festive pressures’ such as financial woes and family rows can push things from bad to breaking point.”

Digital Divorces

From April 2018, couples have had the opportunity to complete the divorce application process using the internet. Since the platform was opened, more than 23,000 online divorce applications have been made.

The introduction of the online divorce petition service is part of a £1 billion plan to modernise the current justice system. The MoJ reported that the newly digitised system for applying for divorce has cut application form errors from 40% to less than 1%. On average, the time taken to complete a divorce application has also reduced by more than half an hour.

Grounds for divorce

In order to apply for a divorce in England and Wales, you must have been married for at least a year and able to prove your marriage has broken down due to one of the following:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • You have lived apart for more than two years and both parties agree to the divorce
  • If your spouse does not agree to the separation, you must have lived apart from your partner for at least five years

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