FOI reveals 53% rise in digital divorce applications in 2020

  • 79,413 online divorce applications received by HM Courts and Tribunals Service in 2020, compared to 51,735 in 2019 – an increase of 53%
  • 29 online divorce applications received on Christmas Day 2020, and a further 111 on 1st January 2020
  • Despite the ease of making divorce applications online, the financial implications remain complex, warns Canada Life


A Freedom of Information request submitted by Canada Life to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has revealed a 53% increase in applications for divorce using the online service for last year compared to 2019, with 79,413 applications received by the service in 2020. Of those received, 67,943 were issued by HMCTS (compared to 45,790 in 2019), as not all applications were processed as they were either incomplete or contained errors.


The data also reveals 29 applications received on Christmas Day 2020 (compared to 15 in 2019), while a further 111 were received by the service on New Year’s Day 2020.



Neil Jones, tax and estate planning specialist, Canada Life said:


“A significant rise in online divorce applications during a year where we all endured a pandemic might not be much of a surprise. Our lives were turned upside down and we were all forced to live for extended periods under the same roof which for many will have put undue pressure on relationships. It’s also likely people felt more comfortable applying for divorce using the HMCTS online service rather than seeking the professional support of a solicitor or financial adviser during the many lockdowns.


“Divorce is a time of heightened anxiety, worry and stress so it is very easy to see where couples could fall foul of the complex issues around financial assets. A specialist divorce IFA will be best placed to help you navigate your way through the system and ensure fairness for both parties.”


A few financial bear-traps following divorce


  • Couples often write wills to help with division of assets, but when you get married any existing wills are invalidated. When you get divorced any existing wills are respected unless they are updated
  • Pensions are a complicated area when looking at divorce and sharing orders, attachment orders or clean breaks are all available by way of sharing assets
  • Pensions in payment using annuities - on divorce, unless the death benefits for annuities are updated with new spouse details, the original beneficiary will receive any annuity benefits from guarantees
  • Control of assets on divorce – the use of trusts, including spousal bypass trusts, mean you can retain an element of control over assets
  • Investment Bonds can be assigned by Court order to ensure there is no tax due when assets are transferred.


The Money Advice Service has a comprehensive resource looking at how to manage your money and assets through divorce or separation: