Release Date: 
Wednesday 18th October 2017

Relate responds to latest ONS divorce statistics

The latest divorce figures for England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a slight increase in levels of divorce in 2016 compared to 2015. More details here:

In response to the figures, Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive at relationship support charity, Relate said:

“Strong relationships are good for our personal wellbeing and for this reason, we were pleased to witness a steady fall in divorce over the past few years.  It is unclear as to why there was a slight increase in divorces in 2016 and as to whether this rise will continue or not.  We know that money worries are one of the top strains on relationships and it may be that rising levels of household debt and stagnating pay growth could be contributing factors.  Despite this small rise, it is important to remember that rates of divorce are still below 2014 levels and it appears that the overall trend continues to be downward. 

“The figures show that there were 106,959 divorces in England and Wales in 2016. Divorce is not something that people tend to take lightly but based on these new figures and our own research, we have calculated that more than 21,000 people say they could have saved their marriage and avoided divorce with the right support last year, and almost 40,000 could have been supported to find the ending of their marriage easier to deal with.* That is why we would encourage anybody experiencing relationship issues to access support such as counselling at the earliest possible stage. We would also urge family lawyers to signpost all clients to counselling as part of the divorce process.”


*In order to calculate this statistic, Relate cross-referenced the latest divorce figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), out today, with their own new data based on a YouGov survey of over 5,000 UK adults conducted in 2016 on behalf of Relate and Relationships Scotland, which found that:

  • 1 in 10 (10%) of those surveyed who were divorced said that, with the right support, “we would have been able to save the relationship and stay together” (5% definitely, 5% probably);
  • 18% said that, with the right support, “we would have been able to make the ending of the relationship easier to deal with” (8% definitely, 10% probably).

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Notes to editors:

  • Relationships are the beating heart of our lives – when they aren’t healthy, we suffer. That’s why Relate, the UK’s leading relationship support charity, is here to help.
  • Relate champions the importance of strong and healthy relationships for all as the basis of a thriving society.
  • Nearly 3 million people in the UK are in distressed relationships – that’s 1.4 million families at breaking point.
  • Relate’s work helps prevent loneliness, depression, abuse, homelessness, debt and many other life-shattering events that can happen when relationships go wrong.
  • Relate’s non-judgmental services helped more than 1.5 million people last year, of all backgrounds and sexual orientations.
  • Relate will celebrate its 80th  birthday in 2018. 
  • Visit or call 0300 100 1234 to find out more.
  • Relate is a registered charity number 207314.