How do same sex and heterosexual divorce rates compare?

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History was made in the UK on the 13th of March 2014, when legislation was passed which would allow same sex couples to legally marry. This was a great step in the right direction for the LGBTQ+ community and a long time coming.

Since the legislation was passed, plenty of data has been collected to spot divorce trends amongst couples. Sadly, figures show not every marriage lasts forever in neither same sex or straight marriages. 

A divorce lawyer can deal with same sex divorces all the same, but how do divorce figures compare to heterosexual marriages? Let’s delve into more detail…

Recent Divorce Figures

When looking at divorce statistics, it’s important to bear in mind the fact that two years of on and off lockdowns, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic will without a doubt, have had an impact on this. 

Some couples discovered that, having been forced to spend a huge amount of time together, they simply did not want to continue with the relationship after experiencing such an intense, weird and stressful time together. 

Having said that, we are able to examine some of the facts and figures when it comes to divorce.

Same Sex Marriages

In the first 29 months following the UK legislation, the divorce rate for same sex marriages stood at just 1%. However, numbers would begin to rise fairly rapidly afterwards. 

In 2020, 1,154 divorces were registered among same sex couples in the UK, a pretty steep increase of 40.4% from the previous year. The majority of these divorces – 71.3% – were female same sex couples. 

In the USA, the divorce rate for same sex couples is recorded at around 2%. As with the UK, the rate is higher for female same sex marriages than males.

In Australia, legislation allowing same sex marriage was only put in place in 2017 and, while there were just 40 divorces in the first year following legislation, this number has increased by a staggering 867% in the period 2021 to 2022. 

Across the board, female same sex divorce rates are around double that of male same sex marriages and, some of the reasons for this are: 

  • Haste – Women are more likely to rush into cohabiting than men, leaving them more likely to regret their decision later on. 
  • History – Around 18% of women in same sex marriages have been married or in a civil partnership before, compared with 10% of men. 
  • Infidelity – Women are less likely to tolerate or forgive infidelity than men are. 

In the UK, the average age for heterosexual first marriages is 30, whereas, the average age for same sex marriages is 33 for women and 38 for men. 

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Heterosexual Marriages

In 2020, 102,438 divorces were granted to heterosexual couples in the UK. While this was a decrease of 4.8% from 2019, this is partly due to the fact that the pandemic prevented couples from gaining a divorce. Between 1964 and 2021, the opposite sex divorce rate has more or less remained steady at around 33%

In the USA, a massive 41% of first heterosexual marriages end in divorce. On a par with the UK, 33% of marriages in Australia end in divorce. 

A Comparison of Marriages 

In 2020, there were 103,592 divorces granted in England and Wales and 98.9% of these were granted to opposite sex couples. 

The main reason for this is fairly obvious – heterosexual couples have always had the right to get married as well as there being more heterosexual marriages taking place in general. With only 2.7% of people in England and Wales identifying as gay.

As same sex marriages have only been legal since 2014, it stands to reason that, for the moment, divorce numbers will be lower. Having said that, same sex divorce rates are beginning to creep up year on year in the UK. 

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Divorce News Lines in the Media

In recent times, a number of same sex celebrity divorces have hit the headlines including that of popular comedian Rosie O’Donnell and Michelle Rounds which occurred in 2015 and which sadly, resulted in the suicide of Michelle Rounds.  

For both opposite sex and same sex marriages, the introduction of the no-fault divorce in the UK this year will almost certainly result in an increase in divorces across the board, as this new legislation will make divorce faster, easier and cheaper for couples. 

This is due to the fact that couples no longer need a ‘reason’, i.e. infidelity, in order to be able to gain a divorce. Similarly, couples no longer need to wait a significant time to divorce if no reason is given. 

New ‘No-Fault’ divorce making divorce easier for all couples..

Heterosexual or same sex, marriage is never something that should be entered into lightly or quickly as it does tend to require a great deal to make it work, particularly in an increasingly busy and complex world. 

While there are a number of differences between heterosexual marriages and same sex ones, experts say that, in both cases, the reasons for divorce tend to be more or less the same. These reasons include infidelity, arguments over money and a realisation that spouses want different things from life. 

While the no-fault divorce law may offer a quicker and cheaper option, divorce is very rarely easy and, as such, when it comes to any kind of marriage, it’s best to avoid the old adage – marry in haste, repent at leisure.