Our Research into Search Behaviour
Justdivorce.co.uk has conducted some new research which reveals that women are much more interested in divorce compared with men. We analysed a year’s worth of website data (collected from Justdivorce.co.uk) and have identified a striking difference in search behaviour when looking at the search terms visitors were using to find the site.
According to Google, the demographics of our website visitors show a fairly even 50/50 split between male and female, so there is no gender bias at play. But the search terms used tell us that women are far more interested in divorce than men.
We examined a range of search terms over a recent 12 month period and recorded those which mentioned divorce specifically. We investigated this further and noticed there were a lot more references to “husband” than to “wife”.
The majority of these searches showed women’s enquiries (phrases used included “how do I divorce my husband”, “can I divorce my husband”, “grounds for divorcing husband”, “divorcing husband”, and so on).
Comparing the two, we found that almost 70% of divorce-related searches came from women and only 30% from men.
These findings may come as no great surprise since they correlate well with some established statistics about divorce and gender. There have been many studies particularly in the US and UK which show that women are much more likely to pursue divorce than their male partners.
Published divorce statistics
A 2000 paper published in American Law and Economics Review by Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W. Allen reported data from several studies across the US spanning more than 100 years (1867 to 1995) regarding the percentage of instances where the woman had filed for divorce. Based on the collected data, it turns out that women had initiated the divorce in around 70% of all cases.
In the UK, the Office for National Statistics records data about divorces every year and a clear trend can be seen. From 2011 to 2013, divorce petitions from the wife outnumbered divorce petitions from the husband by 2 to 1. In total, two thirds of all divorce petitions came from women, with around 65% from women compared to just 35% initiated by men.
In 2012, the Office for National Statistics reported that from all the divorce decrees granted to one partner, 65% were granted to the wife.
Grounds for Divorce
The divorce statistics for the last decade or more reveal the grounds for divorce cited by the petitioners. In the UK, there are only five grounds for divorce – unreasonable behavior, adultery, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation, and 2 years desertion. For both men and women the grounds for divorce are quite similar, with Unreasonable Behaviour being the most cited. Separation is the next most common reason (2 years with consent being more common than 5 years). Adultery is less common, with only a small percentage of women and men citing this as grounds for divorce, while desertion petitions are very rare nowadays.
The UK Ministry of Justice recently published some data on the grounds for divorce cited by petitioners in England and Wales :
Grounds for Divorce cited by wives in England and Wales (2011-2013)
- Unreasonable Behaviour (54%)
- 2 Years Separation with Consent (22%)
- Adultery (13%)
- 5 Years Separation (10%)
- 2 Years Desertion (0.6%)
- Mixed Grounds (0.4%)
Grounds for Divorce cited by husbands in England and Wales (2011-2013)
- Unreasonable Behaviour (37.5%)
- 2 Years Separation with Consent (31%)
- 5 Years Separation (17%)
- Adultery (13%)
- 2 Years Desertion (1%)
- Mixed Grounds (0.5%)
The grounds for divorce cited by petitioners appear similar for both men and women except for Unreasonable Behaviour, which is used more often by women than by men. Unreasonable behaviour covers a range of allegations including physical abuse, mental cruelty, alcoholism, and gambling for example. These can all be triggers for divorce but they don’t explain why women are much more likely than men to take that step.
We created an infographic (below) to illustrate the main findings of our study :
Women’s Motivation for Divorce
Perhaps women may be more likely to initiate divorce than men because they believe they have more to gain from court settlements. The public perception is that UK divorce courts usually favour the wife, especially when there are children involved. Men may be less likely to pursue divorce because they fear losing their children and the high costs of the divorce to them financially.
If you ask men why most divorces are pursued by women, many may tell you it’s because the British courts favour the wives, awarding them custody of the children and financial support for life, something that doesn’t happen in many other countries which instead limit financial support to just a few years.
Up until recently women could also pay for their divorce through legal aid, making it an even more attractive option. However public funding has now been largely removed from divorce cases, so it will be interesting to see if this reduces the number of divorce petitions from women over the coming years.
Of course it would be naive to believe that divorce is an easy process for women. Court proceedings can be equally stressful for both partners and divorced women face many daunting challenges including moving house, single parenthood, a significant reduction in income, finding new employment, and gaining access to childcare. Divorce for women remains a high-risk activity, and yet they are twice as likely to take the risk compared to men. Maybe there is a much simpler explanation behind all this – are women braver than men when it comes to ending unhappy relationships?
Join the debate
We want to hear from both women and men on this subject. Why do you think women are much likelier to initiate divorce proceedings? Are you considering a divorce? Have you gone through a divorce? We want to hear from anyone with first hand experience. Please comment below.