According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of married people in England and Wales has fallen below 50% for the first time in history. This significant trend reflects a shift in societal values and cultural attitudes towards marriage and relationships.


The decline in marriage rates can be attributed to several factors, including changing gender roles, increased career opportunities for women, and a growing acceptance of alternative relationship structures. Additionally, the rise of dating apps and online dating has made it easier for people to connect with others outside of their immediate social circles, leading to a wider range of relationship options.


Another important factor contributing to the decline in marriage rates is the increasing cost of weddings and the financial strain that comes with starting a family. Many young people are choosing to delay marriage or not marry at all in order to focus on building their careers and achieving financial stability.


While the decline in marriage rates may be seen as a negative trend by some, it is important to note that this shift does not necessarily indicate a decline in overall relationship satisfaction or happiness. In fact, many individuals are choosing to prioritise their personal goals and aspirations over traditional societal expectations of marriage and family.


Furthermore, the decline in marriage rates has also led to an increase in alternative forms of committed relationships, such as cohabitation, domestic partnerships, and civil unions. These relationships can provide many of the same benefits as marriage, including emotional support, financial security, and shared responsibilities.


For those opting not to enter into marriage, a cohabitation agreement can be beneficial.  A cohabitation agreement is a legal agreement between two people who are living together but are not married or in a civil partnership. This agreement sets out the financial and property arrangements between the couple and can be an important document in the event of a separation or dispute. In the UK, cohabitation agreements are not legally binding in the same way that marriage or civil partnership agreements are. However, they can be used as evidence in court proceedings if a dispute arises.


The importance of cohabitation agreements lies in their ability to provide clarity and security for both partners in a cohabiting relationship. They can help to establish each partner’s respective financial contributions and entitlements, as well as outlining the division of property and assets in the event of a separation.


Without a cohabitation agreement, disputes over property and finances can become complicated and contentious, especially if one partner contributed more to the relationship financially or if there are children involved.


In short, a cohabitation agreement can provide peace of mind and protection for both partners in a cohabiting relationship and can help to prevent potentially costly and stressful legal disputes.


For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email or visit our LinkedIn page at

This information is correct as of January 2024.


Author John Szepietowski

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