The growing trend for cohabiting means married people are now a minority among the adult population in England and Wales, official figures show.
According to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), husbands and wives accounted for less than half of the adult population for the first time in 2006.
Data for 2005 shows that 50.3 per cent of adults in England and Wales were married. While figures for 2006 are not yet available, the ONS says the steady decline in marriages since 1997 indicates that this figure will now have dipped below half.
The growing number of couples choosing to live together unmarried may be responsible, although the ONS said a rise in divorces was also a factor.
It predicts that there are now four million unmarried people living together in England and Wales.
Cohabiters do not have the same legal rights as married couples and should therefore make sure they understand what they are legally entitled to.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC is campaigning for the introduction of a bill that would give cohabiting couples similar legal and financial protection to that of married people.
In the meantime, cohabiting couples are recommended to draw up a cohabitation agreement to protect their financial position in case their relationships turn sour.
Find out more about cohabiting rights.
Published on: July 15, 2008