The Most Common Causes of Divorce in the UK

Some claim that divorce is ever-increasing and though the past two years have seen an increase in divorce, the concept that year-on-year divorces have been getting more common isn’t true.  The mid-2000s saw a huge dip in divorce rates, and though divorces have increased since the 70s from the mid-80s onwards they’ve stayed at a reasonably steady rate.  You might assume that the most common cause of divorce is extra-marital relationships but recent statistics indicate that this isn’t the case.  This article will take a look then at exactly what the leading causes of divorce are in the UK using statistics collated from around the internet.

The most common cause of divorce

The most common cause of divorce in 2010 is cited as ‘behaviour’ according to statistics from the Office of National Statistics.  55% of women and 36% of men in marriages cited behaviour as their reason for divorcing their spouse.  This has been supported by a study of divorce carried out by Grant Thornton who reported in 2011 that ‘growing apart’ or ‘falling out of love’ (which in official stats would translate to behaviour in the context of ‘grounds for divorce’) accounted for 27% of reasons for divorce.  Contrary to popular belief then, adultery or extra marital relationships are not the leading cause of marital breakdowns. 


Adultery accounts for just 15% of women’s reasons and 16% of men’s reasons for filing for divorce.  Since around 2006 onwards adultery has decreased in prevalence in official stats recording the reasons for divorce in the UK

The recession?

It’s possible that the recession is having an effect on divorce rates with noticeable peaks in divorce in the early 80s, 90s, 2000s and in the last couple of years – all times of recession.  Indeed 82% of respondents told Grant Thornton that they had delayed divorce due to the recession.

Other interesting findings:

Grant Thornton’s report identified other interesting trends which contradict common misconceptions of marriage and divorce.  The idea that the majority of couples who file for divorce have been married for a short time has been contradicted by stats which indicate that just 21% of couples filed for divorce in their first decade of marriage, whereas 74% filed within 11-20 years.  There has been a recorded rise in pre-nuptial agreements after the UK changed rules which gave the pre-nup more weight.  Women were the main petitioners of divorce, with just 4% of men petitioning; 28% of cases were brought jointly.