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Divorce amongst lesbian couples, or married couples consisting of two women, continues to rise

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While divorce rates are, overall, in decline, and have been since they peaked in 1993, statistics recently released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) highlighted that divorce amongst lesbian couples, or married couples consisting of two women, continues to rise.

In fact, lesbian couples are twice as likely to file for divorce than married gay men (14 per cent compared to seven per cent). Of the 2,900 lesbian and gay couples to divorce in 2020, three-quarters were lesbian marriages.

The statistics back up what Brighton’s top divorce law firm, Britton and Time Solicitors have been aware of, anecdotally at least, for a number of years, that more and more lesbian couples from Brighton and the surrounding Sussex area have been seeking the expertise of Britton and Time’s top divorce lawyers as they sue for divorce.

The Argus: Same-sex marriage has been legal in Britain since 2014Same-sex marriage has been legal in Britain since 2014

And it’s not only partners in a lesbian relationship who are looking to dissolve a marriage, but women in heterosexual marriages, too. Women are overwhelmingly more likely to start divorce proceedings – in 2020 62 per cent of divorces were started by the wife.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Britain since 2014, with the ONS recording an increase in divorce rates amongst same-sex couples in 2016 and 2017. While a popular school of thought is along the lines of ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’ as same-sex couples quickly took advantage of the change in law, the majority of those seek divorce cite the age-old issues which frequently doom a marriage – adultery and unreasonable behaviour.

For same-sex divorces, unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for divorce in 2020 for both female and male couples; unreasonable behaviour accounted for 55.2% of female divorces and 57.0% of male divorces.

For same-sex divorces in 2020, the average (median) duration of marriage at the time of divorce was 4.7 years for female couples and 5.4 years for male couples; divorces among same-sex couples have only been possible since 2015 following the introduction of same-sex marriages in March 2014.

Kanak Ghosh of 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.

“While we see that 56 per cent 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.”

Situated on historic Palmeira Square in Hove and along Church Road, Britton and Time Solicitors are predicting a further rise in women seeking a divorce, initially in the short term at least, due to the introduction in April of no-fault divorce, whereby couples no longer need to give a reason for divorce.


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