Family law cases figures and trends: making sense of the stats

In a world increasingly concerned by fake news, misinformation and inaccurate historical comparisons, one Government office at least holds true to facts and figures – the Office for National Statistics.


The ONS collects and collates data on “all areas of family justice including public and private law cases”, but tables of stats can be a little dry. So, an initiative by the Ministry of Justice to turn the stats into interactive graphs is very welcome. 


This is actually more interesting that it sounds! The tool provides series of graphs, all of which you can filter to get at the heart of the trends. At a glance, you can see the divorce rate fluctuate month by month, year by year. (More couples are co-habiting, so this may account for the overall decline in the divorce rate.) You can see how domestic violence cases are just about in decline, but sadly, so are adoption rates.


LGFL fig 1


Children in public law applications

At LGFL, we always put the needs of children first in our family law cases. What is interesting is how the ages of children involved have changed. The numbers of children aged 5-9 years and (more noticeably) 10-14 years has risen dramatically.




LGFL fig 3b


Matrimonial matters

This graph gives another viewpoint; that the number of matrimonial cases involving children has actually dropped. It also shows that more divorce petitioners are women than men. However, the numbers of female petitioners has dropped compared to the number of male petitioners, which remains pretty consistent since 2005.


LGFL fig 11



What do the figures mean?

What the figures don’t show, of course, is why these changes happen. It’s important at this point to remember the difference between causation and correlation. Just because two sets of figures correlate (e.g. they mirror each other), you cannot assume that one has an effect on the other.
A brilliant post on Co.Design takes two sets of totally unrelated data that match up perfectly – and cannot possibly be related. Check out these two examples…


divorce rate and margarine



fishing boat and marriage in kentucky



Trends in divorce and family law

The unique aspect of our work as a specialist family law firm is that no case is ever the same. Family law is ultimately about people and their relationships, and what happens when those relationships break down. So, while figures may reveal trends that reflect changes in attitudes, legislation or the state of the economy, the fundamental reasons why family law cases happen don’t change too much.

As experienced family lawyers, we’ve helped hundreds of clients with their family law issues, from child-friendly amicable divorces to dramatic international wrangles. We offer a sympathetic, pragmatic and informed approach to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your family.
If you would like to discuss your particular situation, call us to arrange an appointment in our Hampshire countryside offices. Our rural location ensures complete discretion and anonymity, and we can offer confidential consultations via Skype for clients overseas.