Humanist marriages least likely to end in divorce official statistics show

March 10, 2019

Couples married in a humanist ceremony are almost four times less likely to divorce compared with all other types of marriages, according to new official statistics on marriage and divorce data in Scotland released today. The data comes as a new poll, also released today, shows growing demand and majority support for legal recognition of humanist marriages in England and Wales to mirror the law in Scotland.

Divorce rates in Scotland

The new official statistics on Scottish divorces were obtained from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service through a freedom of information request. The data covers all divorces in 2017-18 split into civil, humanist, Church of Scotland, Catholic, and other type of religious marriages. By comparing these figures to existing statistics on number of marriages, it’s possible to calculate the divorce rate for each group. In all cases, couples who had a humanist marriage were the least likely to divorce – and by a significant margin. Overall, 0.25% of such couples got divorced in the first 15 years of marriage, compared to 0.84% of all other couples. This stark difference remains regardless of duration of marriage.

Humanist Society Scotland Chief Executive, Gordon MacRae, commented:

Scotland should be proud of leading the way in allowing freedom for couples to choose a humanist marriage. In 2005 there was opposition in Scotland to allowing couples the choice of a humanist ceremony as a “passing fad”. The growth in popularity that now sees Humanist Society Scotland celebrants officiate more marriages than the Church of Scotland has closed any such claim.

These new government statistics on divorce also reveal that humanist marriages are the most likely to result in a couple staying together. Humanist ceremonies have a clear focus on the the people at the heart of the relationship and their own personal  commitments to a lasting relationship.

Gordon MacRae, Humanist Society Scotland
Bar chart showing divorce rates by type of marriage in Scotland in 2017-18.

Strong and growing demand for legal recognition in England and Wales

Humanist marriages have been legally recognised in Scotland since 2005 but are still not recognised in England and Wales. Today also sees the release of a new YouGov poll which shows that nearly 70% of the British public in support legal recognition being extended to England and Wales as well. Humanists UK says the findings strongly support the case for extending legal recognition and puts pressure on the UK Government to urgently extend the right to access humanist marriage in England
and Wales.

The YouGov poll found nearly seven in ten adults (68%) in England and Wales support legalising humanist marriages in these countries. This is a higher level of support compared to when a similar question asked in 2013 (52% support). The strong support is found across religion or belief groups, while just over one in ten (13%) are opposed.

Support is consistent across religion and belief groups. 79% of those with no religion are in favour, as are 56% of Anglicans, 60% of Catholics, and 71% of ‘other Christians’ and 55% of ‘other religions’.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

These figures show what a good start for couples a humanist wedding can be. Humanist weddings are deeply personal, with a unique ceremony crafted for each couple by a celebrant that gets to know them well and ensures that their script and vows reflect precisely who they are and the commitment they are making to each other. They are highly meaningful occasions and are increasingly popular.

It is no wonder that the public is so strongly in favour of legal recognition for our weddings in England and Wales. The UK Government has the power in law to do this immediately and should get on and do it. Their persistent and completely inexplicable failure to act is doing nothing other than preventing happiness and the improvement of individual lives and of society.

Andrew Copson, Humanists UK

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