Divorce applications hit record levels in Ireland, new data reveals

Divorce applications hit record levels for the second year in a row in 2021, according to the latest figures published by the Courts Service.

The details are included in the Courts Service Annual Report for 2021, just published. 

A total of 5,856 divorce applications were filed last year, an 11pc increase from the previous high of 5,220 in 2020.

Overall, there was a 29% increase in new applications for divorce in 2021.

There was also a one-quarter increase in wives seeking a divorce in the Circuit Court, the annual report notes.  

The significant increase in divorce applications is partly explained by a change in the law in December 2019 reducing the minimum time a husband and wife must live apart before either can seek a divorce to two years out of the previous three.

Before that, they had to be living apart for at least four of the previous five years.

It is also anticipated that divorce levels will rise higher in the coming years as the pressure of pandemic lockdown and people living in confined spaces puts further pressure on already struggling marriages. 

Courts Service chief executive Angela Denning said, “The impact that Covid had on families in 2021 is seen in the ongoing high volumes of domestic violence and divorce-related applications, which we prioritised throughout the pandemic.”

Between 3,330 and 4,314 divorce petitions were filed annually in the ten years leading to 2020. But the 5,000 mark was crossed last year for the second year in a row.

Women have traditionally been more likely to file for divorce than men and this trend continued last year, with 59.3pc of divorce applications being filed by female spouses, compared to 56.9pc in 2020.

Divorce was introduced in Ireland in 1997 and annual figures have tended to be low by European standards.

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