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Marriage Foundation study shows significant drop in those considering divorce compared to before the pandemic

A study from Marriage Foundation suggests most married couples won't be heading to the divorce courts following the Covid pandemic.

The research looked at 3,005 parents who completed a survey for the ONS and found twice as many married couples said their relationship had improved during the Covid-19 restrictions. 

Those considering divorce had dropped by two-thirds compared to before the pandemic began, according to the UK Household Longitudinal Coronavirus survey. 

One per cent of married dads and 0.7 per cent of married mums said they were considering divorce. This had gone up by 0.4 per cent for men since June and decreased ever so slightly for women. 

However, when couples were asked the same question between 2017-19, an average of 2.5 per cent of married dads and 5.6 per cent of married mums said they were considering divorce. 

Harry Benson is research sirector for Marriage Foundation, he explained to Premier why the findings are significant:

"We've looked at a big household study and they looked at 3,000 parents who are both married and cohabiting, actually mums and dads. And in previous years, they've asked similar relationship questions. So we've got a comparison for what people look like before Covid times and then in June and September.

"What we found is that the degree to which couples, both married mothers and fathers, were seriously considering divorce was down by about half for fathers and about down by 80 per cent for mothers. That's really important because this is people who are saying, 'We are seriously considering divorce most or all of the time.' In normal times, you've got a few percentage of people who consider divorce that actively, but during lockdown during June, and then in September, when we were about to go into lockdown, the numbers were down by at least half in each case. So it's suggesting pretty strongly that people were not considering divorce in anything like the scale at which they would be doing normally."

The results were different among unmarried cohabiting mothers, who statistically have lower initial levels of commitment and are struggling with the strain of lockdown, amplified by the ambiguity of their primary relationships according to Mr Benson. 

"For cohabiting couples, particularly cohabiting mums, they're the ones who struggled most. I think it's because there's most ambiguity in relationships amongst men who are not married. That's not always the case obviously, but it's meant that very many more cohabiting mums have particularly struggled with their relationships during lockdown. 

"This is more evidence that we need to be encouraging people fearlessly to support marriage. And to be shameless about it because it makes a huge difference. It's not about having a fantasy celebration and wedding and all that stuff - this is about commitment. This is about saying, 'I want to be with you for the rest of your life, the rest of our lives together'. And being really clear about that. Ambiguity, I think, has been the thing that's made lockdown most difficult for most couples, where there's clarity of relationship...that's what works. And that's what I think the Government should be supporting, we should be shamelessly backing marriage and encouraging people to marry."

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder of Marriage Foundation added: "The predicted Covid divorce boom is still not even on the horizon let alone just around the corner. It seems that the centuries old marriage vows 'for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health' still resonate and hold good for the majority of married couples who are hanging in there through thick and thin even whilst their relationships are being stress-tested."

"Although the increased level of unhappiness among a small minority of parents most likely reflects the generally stressful and uncertain circumstances of lockdown, most other indicators of relationship stress are showing lower levels compared to normal. 

"In our previous research, we have shown the key driver of divorce changes over the last few decades has been wives filing for divorce in the early years of marriage. It is therefore noteworthy that 52 per cent fewer married mothers than normal are reporting regular quarrels and 56 per cent fewer than normal are expressing regular regrets about getting married." 

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