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Source: Office for National Statistics: Vital statistics in the UK: births, deaths and marriages 


  • Divorce statistics do not include married couples who separate, but do not divorce.
  • Divorce statistics are derived from information recorded by the courts, during the divorce process. Figures represent both divorces and annulments that took place in each country; a marriage is dissolved following a petition for divorce and the granting of a decree absolute, or annulled following a petition for nullity and the awarding of a decree of nullity. Figures represent the date the decree absolute or the decree of nullity was awarded.


Key dates 
1937Matrimonial Causes Act
Divorce was permitted on additional grounds.
1939 - 1945Second World War
Divorce Reform Act
Removed the need to prove 'fault' in order to end a marriage.
Matrimonial Causes Act
Divorce could be obtained through civil proceedings.
1984Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act
Set a minimum time interval between marriage and divorce to one year, down from three years.
White v. White
A landmark case in the distribution of finances after divorce.



This page is part of Our Changing Society, a free resource developed by CLOSER to provide detailed information about the historical and political backdrop to study participants’ lives.

CLOSER’s mission is to increase the visibility, use and impact of longitudinal population studies, data and research to ensure that longitudinal evidence is used to address the health, social, economic and environmental challenges facing the UK, now and in the future.

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