Marriage rates in decline among younger population

12 Sep 2019

Latest figures published by ONS (Office for National Statistics) show that marriage is in decline and co-habiting is on the rise

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The number of people aged 16 years and over who live with a partner and have never married has increased by 10.4% from 2008 to 2018, according to the latest report from the ONS. 

From 2008 to 2018 the number of cohabitants has increased from 1.3 million to 5 million, 2.7% of which were previously married or civil partnered.

In negative correlation with these findings, the proportion of married men has fallen by 1.8% and women by 1.3% since 2008. Of the 29.3 million population, 61.4% were living with a partner in England and Wales in 2018 and less than half (48.3%) of these were married or civil partner couples. 

Yet for the older population, and despite a rising divorce rate, marriage cited in the last 10 years by people aged 70 and over has risen by 5.5%. Indeed, it appears there is a generational shift as more young cohabitants choose not to marry. 


There are many possible factors for this decline in marriage, one being the soaring average cost of weddings which was reported as a record-breaking £32,000 in 2018. 

Victoria Gethin, head of family law at Stephensons says: “The latest ONS figures around marital status and living arrangements reflect our changing attitudes towards marriage and relationships and present a different picture of what we now define as a ‘committed relationship’.

 “More people, irrespective of age and sexuality, enjoy the freedom to live happily and contently out of wedlock. Younger couples, in particular, are choosing to wait longer and often have different priorities to those of their parents. Similarly, divorcees who have settled with a new partner, no longer feel an urgent need to remarry."

However, Victoria highlights the legal pitfalls of cohabiting: “Unfortunately, many unmarried, cohabiting couples are living together under a misconception; that the myth of the ‘common law marriage’ still holds true and their legal rights mirror those of their married counterparts. That isn’t the case and has led to a rise in the number of unmarried couples in cohabitation disputes or seeking a cohabitation agreement, which sets out what would happen to any property, money and possessions if you split up.

 “We’d always recommend cohabitating couples draw up a legal agreement ahead of moving in together. This can however also be entered into after cohabitation, no matter the length of time a couple has lived together. It should set out the shared intentions of the couple in relation to property and other assets and be reviewed periodically.”

Click here for the full ONS report. All images via Unsplash. 

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