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Rise in Divorce Filings in Poland: Over 21,000 Cases in the First Quarter of 2024

LAWRise in Divorce Filings in Poland: Over 21,000 Cases in the First Quarter of 2024

According to data from 47 regional courts across Poland, more than 21,100 divorce filings were recorded in the first quarter of 2024. This represents a 5.7% increase compared to the same period last year, when just over 20,000 cases were registered. In addition, nearly 19,800 divorce proceedings were concluded in the first three months of this year, 0.5% fewer than the 19,900 cases concluded in the same period last year. Experts commenting on this data note that interest in mediation is growing alongside these figures. They also point out that high inflation did not necessarily influence the number of divorces, although there was a slight increase year-over-year. Moreover, they emphasize that various other factors and mechanisms contribute to the dissolution of marriages.

Increase in Divorce Filings

Data from 47 regional courts indicate that in the first quarter of 2024, over 21,100 divorce filings were recorded, a 5.7% increase compared to the same period last year. Michał Pajdak from the ePsycholodzy.pl platform notes that a year-over-year analysis alone does not allow for conclusions about the dynamics of this phenomenon.

“The number of marriages is generally declining as we enter another demographic downturn. The current number of 20-year-olds is half that of 40-year-olds. Therefore, the base of potential newlyweds is shrinking, which naturally affects the number of weddings. Yet, the number of divorce filings remains relatively stable. The pandemic period influenced this in several ways. Some weddings were postponed to later years, and some did not take place at all. Additionally, being confined at home could have had both positive and negative impacts on struggling marriages. Some could have been saved, while others ended later,” Pajdak explains.

Psychologist Michał Murgrabia, when asked whether the increase in divorce filings should be concerning, suggests that people are increasingly willing to initiate divorce proceedings when facing marital problems. This may also be due to greater societal awareness of healthy relationships and a readiness to seek happiness and satisfaction in new partnerships.

“However, it is also important to note that the increase in filings could be due to many other factors. To fully understand this phenomenon, more detailed analyses or even studies should be conducted to consider various aspects of life and human experiences in the context of marriage and divorce,” adds psychologist Murgrabia.

Dr. Małgorzata Eysymontt from SWPS University, who handles divorce cases daily as a lawyer, agrees. She notes that previously, couples often cited character differences as the reason for no-fault divorces. Nowadays, the reasons often include communication problems, difficulties handling daily life challenges and emotions, including stress, and transferring work problems to home life, as well as emotional burnout in the relationship.

“During the pandemic and shortly afterward, the number of divorce filings increased. When spouses, who were already not getting along, spent the entire day together, conflicts were more likely. Fatigue from forced isolation and the need to organize activities for children and ensure their school obligations while working led to more frequent arguments, escalating the situation in marriages. The pandemic period encouraged reflection on marriage. Additionally, Poles, especially those living in larger cities, are becoming more aware of their rights and do not want to stay in toxic relationships,” says Dr. Eysymontt.

Key Moments in the Year

The number of divorce filings fluctuates throughout the year. Dr. Małgorzata Eysymontt observes an increase in filings during the summer holidays or right after and during the Christmas and New Year period. She links this to organizing matters before trips or after a long rest period, or before the holidays and the end of the year. These times prompt reflections and evaluations, leading to important life decisions.

“Not necessarily short-term marriages end in divorce. In 2022, 18% of divorces involved marriages lasting 0 to 4 years, 20% for 5 to 9 years, 20% for 10 to 14 years, 14% for 15 to 19 years, and 11% for 20 to 24 years. Additionally, 17% of divorces involved marriages longer than 25 years,” calculates Dr. Eysymontt.

According to GUS data, the most common reasons for divorce in 2022 were incompatibility of characters (52.3%), infidelity (17.5%), and alcohol abuse (12.9%). Financial disagreements (7.3%), housing problems (4.7%), inappropriate behavior towards family members (1.3%), and prolonged absence of one spouse (1.2%) were less frequently cited.

Interest in Mediation

Konrad Walc, a lawyer from the Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights, notes a growing interest in mediation among partners planning to separate. Mediation can shorten divorce proceedings by allowing binding agreements that the court can later acknowledge. Walc also points out that having minor children significantly extends the process.

“If there are no minor children or disputes over property division, the case may end at the first hearing. Divorce proceedings for couples with minor children are much more challenging. The division of parental authority, the child’s residence, visitation, and alimony must be determined. In such situations, it is beneficial to reach an agreement and parenting plan with a mediator before filing for divorce. This relieves the court from determining custody and related issues, and no experts are needed to decide with whom the child should live. With such a plan, the court only determines if the marriage has genuinely broken down,” Walc explains.

Inflation and Divorce Rates

Data from the regional courts also show that nearly 19,800 divorce cases were concluded in the first quarter of this year, 0.5% fewer than in the same period last year (just under 19,900). Psychologist Michał Murgrabia suggests this could be due to increased societal awareness of the importance of marriage counseling and therapy for improving relationships. Another factor potentially affecting the number of filings is inflation. In 2023, rapidly rising prices may have forced spouses to refrain from filing for divorce, as living costs are higher for single individuals than for couples. This year, the economic situation has changed dramatically. Konrad Walc believes this could partly explain the increase in initiated divorce cases.

“Inflation slowdown translates into higher living standards. People feel more secure and ready to make difficult decisions. Imagine a financially dependent woman; her decision to separate would be challenging, but improved financial circumstances could give her the strength to leave an unsuccessful relationship,” says the lawyer from the Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights.

Dr. Małgorzata Eysymontt, in her legal practice, does not observe high inflation deterring divorce filings or its decline encouraging them. However, she sees that rising prices lead to more frequent filings for increased child support. Typically, custodial parents argue that due to rising living costs and the increased needs of minor children, they require higher support from the former partner. Sometimes, the parent paying alimony cannot accept an increase due to higher maintenance costs and adverse changes in their financial or earning capabilities.

“Alimony is a major source of conflict and often overshadows the welfare of the children. This can cause frustration and dissatisfaction. A parent struggling with negative emotions often submits periodic requests for alimony adjustments, trying to convince the court that they lack the funds to support and raise the child,” concludes Dr. Eysymontt.

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