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Marriage on the decline, cohabitation on the increase


The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal the continued decline of marriage whilst cohabitation increases.

The statistics show that 50.6% of the population in England and Wales aged 16 and over were married in 2015 compared to 54.8% in 2014. There has also been an increase in people cohabiting from 6.8% of the population of England and Wales aged 16 over in 2002 to 9.5% in 2015.

The legal position upon the breakdown of a marriage and the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship is vastly different. There are many that still believe that there is a concept of the common law wife but this is wrong. People can often find themselves in precarious positions following the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship as the legal recourse often doesn’t offer the same scope of financial assistance as that upon a divorce and can be far more complex.

Resolution which is an organisation whose members are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes has referred to these statistics as a “wake up call” for policymakers. Graeme Fraser, Resolution’s spokesman on cohabitation law, indicated that Resolution is calling for, “the urgent introduction of safety net legislation providing legal protection and fair outcomes at the time of a couple’s separation, particularly for children and mothers left vulnerable under the existing law”.

Change to the law has long been mooted but unfortunately seems a long way off. It is therefore very important for couples who are considering cohabitating to seek legal advice and consider entering into a cohabitation agreement. 

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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