National Records of Scotland

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The Correction of the Provisional Figure for the Total Number of Divorces in 2008

The Correction of the Provisional Figure for the Total Number of Divorces in 2008

There will always be divorces, granted in one calendar year, for which data are not sent to the National Records of Scotland (NRS) until the next calendar year. Under its former arrangements for the processing of the data on divorces, NRS used to count all the divorces which were granted in the previous year, for which data were processed before around the end of February, against the previous year. That allowed time for any backlog of data from the previous year to be processed, and so almost all the divorces would be counted against the correct year in the preliminary figures which NRS published in the first half of March. Later in the new year, when NRS received data for other divorces which were granted in earlier years, it would count them in the figures for the new year. The number of such cases would be small, and their effect on the figures for the current year should be approximately offset by the number of divorces, granted in that year, for which data would be received after about the end of the following February, resulting in their being counted in the figures for the following year. This approach meant that, as with the statistics of births and deaths, the published figures for previous years would never change, which simplified matters for users of the statistics because they did not need to worry about the possibility that the numbers that they already have for past years might have been revised slightly.

Under the former arrangements, therefore, all the data for divorces granted in 2008 which NRS processed up to about the end of February 2009 should have been counted against 2008. However, the start of 2009 was an exception, for two reasons. First, changes in staff duties within NRS led to a larger than normal number of divorces not being processed until February 2009. Second, due to a misunderstanding, NRS stopped counting such cases as 2008 divorces after only a couple of weeks, rather than waiting until towards the end of February, as in previous years. As a result, NRS did not count as 2008 divorces, for the figures which it published on 12 March 2009, most of the divorces from 2008 which were processed in the first two months of 2009. The error was not spotted because (as the news release on 12 March had said) NRS had expected a fall in the number of divorces in 2008, because the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 reduced separation periods before divorce, causing an increase in divorces in 2006 followed by reductions in 2007 and 2008. Using the figure published on 12 March, the average of these three years was around 11,700 which was similar to the average level of just over 11,000 divorces per year during the 3 years before the law was changed. So the original figure for 2008 appeared credible. The problem was only identified later, when NRS staff were dealing with a relatively minor problem which affected the number of divorces at one of the smaller courts, and realised that over 2,000 divorces granted in 2008 had been wrongly counted in 2009. After NRS discovered that there was a problem, it corrected its data and released the corrected figure, as described in the NRS news release on 16 April 2009 - More Divorces In 2008 Than Previously Thought.

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