Rates of marriage amongst opposite sex couples have fallen to their lowest ever level according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
There were a total of 239,020 heterosexual marriages in 2015, the ONS reveals, a fall of nearly 3.5 per cent in a single year (from 247,372) and the lowest on record. The figure equates to 21.7 marriages per 1,000 single men and 19.8 per 1,000 unmarried women. The decline affected both religious and civil marriages, but with the sharpest fall occurring amongst the former.
When compared to 2005, marriage rates for all ages have fallen except for men aged 65 or over and women aged 55 or over, who are actually marrying at a higher rate.
Meanwhile, a little under 6,500 same sex marriages took place in 2015, with the majority between female same sex couples. Unsurprisingly, most of these were civil rather than religious ceremonies. Notably, a further 9,156 couples converted their civil partnerships into marriage over the same period.
No less than 85 per cent of the individuals entering same sex marriages were entering their first legally recognised partnerships, the ONS notes: a significantly higher rate than the 76 per cent of people entering an opposite sex marriage.
Sarah Snow is Managing Partner of Stowe Family Law’s recently established Manchester office. Appearing on talkRADIO, she told presenter Eamonn Holmes that marriage rates had been declining since the 1970s.
“This is nothing new. Nowadays there is less social pressure to get married. People have other goals, like travel and careers, and there is less of a taboo about having children out of marriage – and in general, not as a high a regard for marriage as there was in the past.”
But marriage still has advantages in law, she continued. “People so often assume cohabitees have the same rights as married couples but they don’t and this is a real issue which needs to be looked at.”
The interview is available to listen to here (choose the 18.00 – 18.30 section).
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