Leading divorce lawyer, Lucinda Connell with Major Family Law, the North East’s best divorce and family law firm, comments in 2014, 51.5% of people in England and Wales aged 16 years and over were married or in civil partnerships whilst 33.9% were single, having never been married.

Between 2002 and 2014 the proportions of people aged 16 and over who were single or divorced increased but the proportion of people who were married or widowed decreased.

The increase between 2002 and 2014 in the percentage of the population who were divorced was driven by those aged 45 and over, with the largest percentages divorced at ages 50 to 64 in 2014.

In 2014, around one in eight adults in England and Wales were living as a couple but not currently married or civil partnered.

Cohabiting is most common in the 30 to 34 years age group.

More women (18.9%) than men (9.8%) having been previously married or civil partnered were not living in a couple; this is due to larger numbers of older widowed women than men in England and Wales in 2014.

Divorce lawyers have noticed over the past few years the increasing trend in older people opting for divorce. Divorce has not been seen to be a social stigma for quite some time and older couples are more aware that they can separate, often agreeing sensible arrangements amicably, and still meet new people and lead a happier life rather as opposed to staying in unfulfilling relationships.

Younger couple, those in their 30s, are more likely to be cohabiting due to both shifting attitudes to marriage but also as a result of financial constraints during the recent straitened times. It is therefore particularly important that the myth of the “common law spouse” be dispelled. There is no such thing as a common law partner and cohabitants may not have the rights they think they do in the event of any separation. Sorting out break-ups for unmarried couples can be costly because, unlike divorce, there is no straightforward legal framework to help decide how assets should be shared between cohabiting couples. ‘Living Together Agreements’ can help regulate the situation and set some boundaries in relationships, reducing the difficulties and costs which can -and often do – arise upon a subsequent separation.