The 6 Most Common Reasons Why Couples Get Divorced

25 Nov 2023 | Hannah Goldstein
most common reasons why couples get divorced

Table of Contents

What are the most common reasons for divorce?

Following the UK’s transition to a no-fault divorce system, couples no longer need to identify a particular wrongdoing as a ground to legally end their marriage.

But while the legal divorce process may be simpler, the decision to actually go through with it, and the subsequent impact on couples, is as difficult and complex as ever. Couples may decide to end their marriage for a multitude of reasons, whether they’ve experienced a one-time major betrayal like an affair or a gradual erosion of the relationship over time. Often, it’s a combination of factors that cause couples to drift apart.

Here are six of the most commonly cited reasons why people separate.

1. Infidelity

Unfaithfulness is a leading cause of divorce, whether through physical or emotional betrayal. When one partner discovers that their spouse has engaged in an emotional or sexual relationship with someone else, trust and respect can be irrevocably damaged.

Even if the straying partner apologises and begs for forgiveness, the betrayed partner may not be able to move past the act. That’s why adultery used to be the second most cited ground for divorce (after unreasonable behaviour) that you could use to show that your marriage had irretrievably broken down.

2. Lack of connection and commitment

While a thousand romantic comedies are built on the idea that opposites attract, in reality, couples need to feel they have something in common with their partner and are truly committed to have a happy, healthy marriage. There needs to be a “meeting of minds” in order for couples to stay together and put effort into the relationship.

Differences that are easy to overlook in the first flush of romantic passion can become more pronounced over time. If couples don’t do the work and find ways to bridge their differences, the bond between them can quickly deteriorate. One large-scale U.S. survey found that a staggering 73.2% of divorcing couples identified a lack of commitment as the main cause of their marital breakdown.

3. Money troubles

Around one in 10 couples split due to rows about money. But it’s not money trouble as such that pushes couples towards the divorce courts – it’s that couples have different ideas about how to manage the family’s finances. For example, one partner may be irresponsible with money and spend beyond their means, while the other prefers to save for a rainy day. Or one partner may be trying to control their spouse’s spending habits.

Different perspectives on finance aren’t usually a problem when a couple has financial stability. But if they face financial difficulties, the difference in values can become more apparent. Financial incompatibilities can also complicate the process of negotiating financial settlements in divorce, making it crucial for couples to seek expert legal advice.

4. Poor communication

Poor communication comes in all shapes and sizes from constant arguing to sweeping problems under the rug to flat-out lying. But it all has the same result: couples who don’t talk to each other will find their relationship deteriorating quickly.

Communication is one of those issues that has cascading consequences. It can give rise to feelings of incompatibility, neglect, bitterness and resentment that can become overwhelming if left unchecked. In some cases, couples are able to work on their communication problems and develop a healthy relationship once again. In others, the lack of communication can be so severe that divorce becomes the only solution.

Where communication has deteriorated to a point of no return, couples may find mediation a useful tool in divorce negotiations.

5. Growing apart

Couples who have been together for many years can find themselves becoming more like strangers as they drift apart from each other. People change, and the activities and interests they once shared no longer hold a place in their lives, leaving them feeling lonely, sad or disconnected.

The process of children growing up and leaving the family home can often act as a catalyst for couples to assess the state of their relationship. This stage of life, commonly referred to as ’empty nest syndrome,’ leaves couples with an abundance of free time and a reduced set of parental obligations. Some couples embrace this time and reconnect on a deeper level. For others, it can amplify pre-existing issues that previously were ignored, leading many to realise that their relationship is not as strong as it once was.

6. Abuse

Abuse can take many forms and may include:

  • Domestic violence where one partner physically harms the other.
  • Emotional abuse where one partner belittles or criticises the other with hurtful words and actions.
  • Coercive control where one partner seeks to control the other by manipulating or restricting their behaviour. This can include financial control.

These types of abuse can cause long-term psychological trauma, leaving the victim feeling scared, isolated and unable to trust their partner. In such cases, divorce could be the only way for victims to regain control of their lives and find safety and security. If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, you might also be able to obtain an injunction through the family court.

Whatever the reason for getting divorced, you might also need to deal with splitting your finances on divorce and arrangements for the children. If you are considering getting divorced, or at the receiving end of a divorce, and need advice, we are here to help.

Contact us for advice and support

At Osbornes Law, our family lawyers can provide support through this difficult time.

  • Fill in our online enquiry form; or
  • Call us on 020 7485 8811

Share this article

Contact

Contact us today

For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you






    • "Osbornes Law have a very broad family practice which does all areas of family law at a high level. They have an excellent practice; they are top quality across the board."

      CHAMBERS UK 2023

    • Osbornes have been a sound firm forever. They have phenomenal work and an excellent skill set.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • Osbornes have high-end partners doing high-end work. They are very impressive.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • They have an excellent practice; they are top quality across the board.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • Osbornes have a very broad family practice which does all areas of family law at a high level.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • He is very hard-working, diligent and thoughtful in his approach. He is on top of the detail and makes strategic decisions.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • He commits himself to getting the best results.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • He’s a really tough litigator that you certainly want on your side. He will defend his clients to the hilt.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • Mark is an immensely capable lawyer, with vast experience and a well-deserved reputation for getting the very best for his clients.

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • Lisa Pepper is extremely hard-working and adored by her clients. She is a very empathetic and approachable lawyer.

      Chambers HNW 2O22

    • She’s an extremely supportive and kind lawyer and has an increasing mediation profile too

      Chambers HNW 2022

    • Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.

      Family Department Client

    • "It has a strong and experienced team of solicitors who don’t take bad points, work sensibly to get a settlement and who you can always pick up the phone and speak to. They are good lawyers and know the strengths and weaknesses of their clients’ cases. They don’t posture and always pursue their clients cases appropriately. "

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Mark Freedman is a very capable lawyer, renowned for not being a pushover and pushing his clients’ cases as much as he can, but will always talk sensibly about settlement. He is among the best – tenacious, good judgment and tactically aware."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Mark Freedman is a dynamic and highly experienced family lawyer who fights extremely hard for his clients and is always in their corner, thus ensuring their loyalty and confidence. In a trial you would always want him on your side."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Bridget Thompson combines her excellent legal knowledge with a clear, succinct and robust style of advice and advocacy. Her approach clearly inspires a high degree of client confidence in her"

      Legal 500 2021

    • "She has impressed me as someone who fights my corner but also understands the importance of resolving issues without unnecessary escalation. She is calm and reassuring."

    • "Her mediation practice is exceptional; she is also a great solicitor and has a breadth of skill which is really useful."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • "He is really experienced and wise. He has a lovely manner about him and clients feel safe with him."

      Chambers UK

    • "Jo Wescott is top notch and widely recognised as a rising star throughout the profession. She brings a winning combination of great judgement, an immense work ethic, and a relaxed and charming way with opponents and clients alike. Someone you want on your side”

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Osbornes is pre-eminent for family law in North London. Mark Freedman is a real rainmaker. He is an excellent lawyer and has a top-notch practice"

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases.

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • "Exceptional value for money. Highly competent and reasonably priced. Mark Freedman: one of the best in the field."

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • "Client-focused. Ready to fight the clients’ corner, but also ready where possible to steer client from unnecessary dispute. Mark Freedman – very experienced, with good instinct for the eventual result. Clients love him and he thinks ahead and directs the client to the best result for the client."

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman is a serious player. A fearless family law litigator, who protects his clients’ interests passionately.

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Breadth of knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile is what makes it stand out. Mark Freedman – devoted to his clients

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues. Sources praise the "tenacity and common sense" he brings to challenging disputes.

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark is very experienced, competent, good with clients and takes a sensible approach to cases. He knows exactly what he's doing."

      Chambers & Partners Directory 2020, Mark Freedman

    • "An exceptional outfit. They take on difficult cases, fight hard and win."

      Chambers UK

    • "They are an outstanding firm to work with. They are consistently impressive in their work."

      Chambers UK

    • "The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman is a real heavyweight litigator who has dealt with some very significant cases."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman boxes clever, keeps his powder dry and when it comes to the end game he negotiates a really good deal."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman has a specific focus on high-net-worth divorces and finance cases where there are overseas assets and trusts."

      The Legal 500

    • "Lisa Pepper somehow manages to get parties to settle on matters where there isn’t much hope to start out with."

      The Legal 500

    • "Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark Freedman draws acclaim for his work in high net worth divorce cases, including those involving company structures, family trusts and overseas assets."

      Chambers UK 2019

    • "He never gives up. He fights for you to the end and has boundless energy."

      Chambers UK

    • Bridget Thompson heads the family team, where client care is the top priority.

      Legal 500

    • Mark Freedman advises high-net-worth clients and knows his stuff.

      Legal 500

    • Highly regarded for his experience as a litigation and mediation expertise, Mark Freedman is tenacious and determined. Clients really feel that he is fighting their corner.

      Chambers UK

    • [The Family Law department] handles significant matrimonial finance cases and complex nuptial agreements. Respected for its expertise in cross-border children law matters.

      Chambers UK

    • They have a really good, strong team, with the junior elements punching well above their weight. It doesn't matter who you talk to; they are all switched on."

      Family Law department client

    • "Mark Freedman receives a lot of instructions from clients based abroad, often relating to complex divorce proceedings. Sources say: “His main strengths are his enthusiastic passion for the job in hand and his total dedication to his clients.”

      Chambers UK

    Related InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. parents with their child
      15.5.2024

      Understanding Parents Rights Over Their Children

      My ex-partner is telling me that I cannot see our children. Is this allowed? There is a common misconception that...

      Read more
    2. money
      13.5.2024

      Impact Of Extended Family Wealth On Divorce

      Can the Wealth of Extended Family Affect Your Divorce Outcomes? While there is no fundamental legal difference between a high-net-worth...

      Read more
    3. osbornes hampstead
      16.4.2024

      New Rules Guide Separating Couples Away From Court

      New guidance, if properly applied, could effectively compel couples to try anything but court as a way to resolve their...

      Read more
    4. kings cross station clock
      8.4.2024

      8 Considerations for French Nationals Divorcing in England & Wales

      Introduction If you are a French national with connections to England and considering a divorce, both the French courts and...

      Read more
    5. Hampstead Hill Gardens
      21.12.2023

      Financial Remedy Orders Explained

      It is common for disagreements to arise over the finances during a divorce, even if you are on good terms...

      Read more
    6. Final Order
      18.12.2023

      What is a Final Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces brought about a number of changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. One...

      Read more
    7. field of flowers
      14.12.2023

      What is Parental Alienation?

      Sometimes, a child may turn against one of their parents due to the other parent’s manipulation or influence. This...

      Read more
    8. divorced man with empty wallet
      4.12.2023

      My spouse is going bankrupt. Will it affect...

      Divorce and Bankruptcy In 2022, more than 1 in 10 businesses reported a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency. More than one in five (22%) of...

      Read more
    9. spousal maintenance
      28.11.2023

      What is Spousal Maintenance?

      Spousal Maintenance Spousal maintenance is a legal obligation to provide financial support to a former spouse after the marriage or...

      Read more
    10. signing contract
      30.10.2023

      What is a Conditional Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces in England and Wales removed the need to assign blame for the breakdown of a...

      Read more
    11. man signing paperwork
      29.10.2023

      What is a consent order?

      Most divorcing couples agree on how their finances will be divided without going to court. A consent order is what...

      Read more
    12. child maintenance
      16.8.2023

      Child Maintenance for High Earners

      How much should be paid? When separating or divorcing parents cannot agree the amount of child maintenance to be paid, (...

      Read more
    13. 25.7.2023

      Parental Conduct and Child Arrangements

      The Role of Family Dynamics in Child Arrangement Cases In proceedings involving children, the parents should consider the impact their...

      Read more
    14. rubber stamp
      23.6.2023

      Approving Consent Order In High Value Divorce Case...

      The case of Bogolyubov v Bogolyubov The best course of action for divorcing couples is to agree on a financial...

      Read more
    15. union jack
      23.3.2023

      Does Divorce Jurisdiction Matter?

      Jurisdiction in divorce I am a family law practitioner with a large client following in England and in Gibraltar. I...

      Read more
    16. two people walking
      22.3.2023

      Breadwinner or homemaker in divorce. Does it matter?

      Breadwinner vs Housewife Divorce Rights When it comes to deciding how wealth is split in a divorce, English courts do...

      Read more
    17. lady with two children
      22.3.2023

      What is Parental Responsibility?

      Understanding Parental Responsibility Parental responsibility is the legal term used to describe parents’ duties and responsibilities for their children. These...

      Read more
    18. couple holding hands
      16.3.2023

      Are trusts protected from divorce?

      Can trusts protect an inheritance from your spouse? A trust is a separate legal entity. Neither spouse owns its assets....

      Read more
    19. cube cafe camden
      16.3.2023

      Is a limited company protected from divorce?

      Is my spouse entitled to half of my business? If you are involved in running a limited company, then it...

      Read more
    20. man looking out
      16.3.2023

      How is a pension split in a divorce?

      Pensions and Divorce In a divorce, pensions are taken into account together with all other financial assets. Once all assets...

      Read more
    21. Camden house red door
      16.3.2023

      Who gets the house in a divorce?

      How is a house divided in a UK divorce? For most people thinking about getting a divorce, one of the...

      Read more
    22. Prenup agreement and gavel
      7.12.2022

      Judge ignores pre-nuptial agreement but factors in non-matrimonial...

      Case Law One of the reasons I am still passionate about family law, after 20 years in the field, is that...

      Read more
    23. pension pot
      30.8.2022

      Pension sharing on divorce

      What is the new procedure for pension sharing? Pensions are one of the biggest assets of a marriage, yet many...

      Read more
    24. door knocker
      30.8.2022

      What is a transfer of equity?

      Transfer of equity in divorce Transfer of equity refers to the process of transferring part or all of a property...

      Read more

    VIEW ALL