Credit: Alexandr Baitelman /

Divorce filings hit record high in 2020 after referendum

Wives accounted for 75 per cent of divorce applications made last year.

The number of divorce applications rose by almost one third last year following a reduction in the time required to obtain a separation under the Family Law Act 2019.

5,266 applications were made in 2020, compared to 4,073 in 2019 and 3,888 in 2018, according to figures released by the Court Service, with the vast majority being heard in the Circuit Court.

3,950 of the applications last year were made by wives, with a total of 3,164 divorce orders made by the courts.

The Courts Service report also said lockdowns causing unemployment and requiring people to “stay at home” had “increased pressure” on families, with domestic abuse cases increasing by 12 per cent to 22,970 applications.

This represents a 65 per cent increase in domestic violence applications since 2015, whilst care orders for maltreated children rose by 28 per cent in a year to 13,203 cases in 2020.

Legal experts say lockdowns did not cause the 2020 surge in divorces however, as new laws requiring a two-year separation only came into effect in 2019.

A divorce referendum passed in 2019 had allowed the government to implement legislation reducing the wait times for separated couples from four years to two.

The significant increase in applications is reportedly a result of many separated couples who were waiting four years for a divorce becoming immediately eligible for it in late 2019 with the passing of new legislation.

Women have consistently filed for a greater percentage of divorces than men since divorce was legalised in 1997, with some commentators suggesting men are less inclined to file because they are more likely to lose the family home.

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