Lucinda Connell, specialist children’s solicitor with Major Family Law, the best divorce and family law specialists, states: As a family lawyer, the statistics with regards to the number of peoples choosing to formalize their relationship by way of marriage is always on interest. The latest figures in this area have now been published by the Office of National Statistics and they show that just over half of the adult population are married.  In 2015 there were 23.8 million people (in England and Wales) who were married. This was 50.6% of the population aged 16 and over. In 2002, married people amounted to 54.8% of the population aged 16 and over. The number of marriages can be seen to have continued to decline.

The population aged 16 and over who were single increased from 29.6% in 2002 to 34.5% in 2015. There were 28.4 million people living in a couple in 2015. This was 60.5% of the population aged 16 and over. This coincides with an increase in people cohabiting who are never married or civil partnered (from 6.8% in 2002 to 9.5% in 2015), as cohabitation has become more common as an alternative to marriage, especially at younger ages. The rise in single population also reflects more people in middle age groups remaining unmarried.

The specialist family lawyers’ organization, Resolution, has campaigned for some time for reform to the (currently) unclear and outdated law which governs the position when a cohabiting couple’s relationship breaks down. A Resolution spokesman, Graeme Fraser, commented:

“These statistics should be regarded by policymakers as a wake-up call that cohabitation is a trend of modern society that is not going to go away. As family lawyers who see the damage caused by the lack of protection for cohabiting couples when they separate, Resolution calls 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.

In light of the latest ONS data, reform of the law for cohabiting couples should be one of the top priorities for the new Justice Secretary.”