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Sex on top – but domestic violence increasingly cause for divorce

Tuesday August 7, 2018 at 9:53 am

Sex remains the most common reason for divorce in the UK in one form or another – though “power” is increasingly cited as a key factor, according to new research.

Ten years after its initial survey of lawyers around reasons for divorce showed sex played a part in 43 per cent of unreasonable behaviour petitions filed by Woolley & Co, Solicitors, repeated the exercise to see how times have changed.

Reasons for Divorce Statistics

While sex has a decreased influence since 2008, factors relating to it are still mentioned in over 36 per cent of divorces where unreasonable behaviour is the actual reason for divorce – by far the most common ground for divorce listed on divorce petitions.

However power, be it domestic violence, controlling finances or coercive control, for instance, is seeing increasing prominence at 31.7 per cent, up from 21 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of times that technology is mentioned in divorce papers, like through an addiction to Facebook or the intrusion of Twitter, has dropped significantly, to just 1.4 per cent.

“What we have seen over 10 years is that the reasons behind divorce remain largely the same, but the balance within those reasons is changing,” said Andrew Woolley, managing partner at national family law firm Woolley & Co, Solicitors, which has more than 20 lawyers based across England and Wales.

“Sex, in one form or another, is mentioned in a large number of cases. We see very few adultery cases but people will mention cheating as a reason in their unreasonable behaviour petition. It can cover a whole spectrum of activity though, inappropriate behaviour with a work colleague, to the use of prostitutes, to joining Tinder and other dating apps.

“An increase in litigants in person means that the number of adultery petitions is dropping as those without legal advice are reluctant to admit to adultery, not understanding it has no impact on any divorce settlement. Without an admission before the divorce petition or having hard evidence most lawyers wouldn’t advise trying to apply for a divorce on the grounds of adultery as they know it’s likely to fail.

“With expert input from the start, we can point out that a divorce is a divorce. Whether it is for adultery or unreasonable behaviour makes no difference to financial claims.

“The most significant shift has been the number of people talking about abuse of power as a reason for divorce. This is quite a disturbing move and could be, in part, down to a change in the law on coercive behaviour.

“On the other side of the coin, we have seen technology plummet in terms of mentions. Back in 2008, Facebook, Twitter and the like were quite new and starting to impact relationships. Skip forward 10 years and smartphones and social media are ubiquitous so probably people do not think about these as a contributing factor. Use of technology is akin to breathing in and out now – almost something we don’t notice.”

Other trends picked up in the survey among lawyers at the firm looking at a total of 210 cases include:

  • More people wanting to take on some of the divorce work themselves
  • Longer time getting divorced – at least four to five months to get a decree nisi from the point of applying when previously a whole divorce could be done in that time
  • More women starting divorce proceedings
  • More people divorcing later in life.

Andrew Woolley added; “This research serves as an interesting snapshot of what is motivating people to break up a relationship. Divorce citing unreasonable behaviour is on the increase but in light of the recent ruling in the Owens v Owens case the examples given will need to be more substantial, so unless there is the ‘no-fault divorce’ all reputable family lawyers are calling for we’ll see some very different results if we repeat this research in another 10 years’ time.”

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