Why Are Marriage Rates Falling in England and Wales?

The latest data from the Office of National Statistics reveals a historic dip below 50% in married individuals, leading legal experts to call for changes to the laws around cohabitation. Here’s the full story.

I Don’t

Relationships are complicated, particularly in our modern age of dating apps, so-called “situationships,” and changing views on monogamy. This is reflected in newly released figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which shows a significant change in the marital landscape of England and Wales.

For the first time since records began, the proportion of individuals aged 16 or older who are married or in a civil partnership has fallen below 50%.

This dramatic shift in relationship habits has sparked discussions throughout the country and the media on what the changing dynamics of relationships could mean for society and the reasoning behind such drastic changes. 

According to the data released by the ONS, the proportion of married individuals dropped from 51.2% in 2012 to 49.4% in 2022, marking a significant, if not entirely precipitous, decline over the past decade.

This trend represents a departure from the available historical data, where the percentage of married individuals had consistently remained above 50% since comparable records began in 1972. 

Whilst marriage rates have fallen, conversely, there has been a noticeable increase in couples living together without formal marriage or civil partnership arrangements.

The statistics reveal that this cohort has grown from 19.7% in 2012 to 22.7% in 2022, encompassing almost a quarter of the population.

Do You Take These Reforms?

Legal experts have highlighted the urgent need for reforms to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape of relationships in England and Wales. Legal experts have underlined the need for reforms to accommodate the evolving landscape of relationships.

David Lillywhite, a partner at Burgess Mee Family Law, pointed out some of the common misconceptions surrounding cohabitation, stating, “Unfortunately, many couples still believe that simply by living with their partner they will automatically be entitled to a share of the other’s wealth or receive financial support from them when the relationship breaks down.

The reality is very different and can often come as something of a shock.”

Lillywhite echoed the calls for urgent reform, stating, “This area of law is crying out for reform, which could include the ability for cohabitees to apply for maintenance for a limited period to adjust for the loss of financial support; an opt-out right for eligible cohabitees for financial remedy orders like married couples and civil partners; and a right for cohabitees to inherit under the intestacy rules and be treated the same way as married couples for tax purposes.”

In response, the government announced a review of laws governing the division of finances post-divorce, recognizing the changing dynamics within familial structures. Sital Fontenelle, head of Kingsley Napley’s family and divorce practice, underscored the importance of extending protections to cohabitants, stressing, “If marriage is no longer the default for modern families, our laws should be updated to reflect that.”

Evolution of Civil Partnerships

While civil partnerships continue to constitute a smaller proportion of legal partnerships, the number of couples engaging in them has experienced a notable increase over the past decade.

The introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships in 2019 has contributed to this surge, with estimates nearly doubling from 120,000 in 2012 to 222,000 in 2022.

The falling marriage rate is not the only exciting figure revealed in the data from the ONS. It also sheds light on the wide range of diversity within marital and partnership arrangements.

The number of same-sex marriages has risen significantly, with males constituting the majority at 61.2%. However, the overwhelming majority of marriages—99.3%—are between individuals of the opposite sex.

Analysis of age demographics reveals shifts in marital patterns over time. While individuals aged 70 and over represent an increasing proportion of the married population, younger age groups show a significant decline in marital partnerships.

This demographic trend underscores the aging of the married or civil partnered population over the past decade. The latest ONS figures offer valuable insights into the changing landscape of marriage and cohabitation in England and Wales.

As societal norms evolve, there is a growing imperative to reform the corresponding laws to ensure equitable treatment and protection for individuals in diverse relationship structures.

The post Why Are Marriage Rates Falling in England and Wales? first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Rybana.

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

Leave a Comment