Is there any rush to get married?

Clearly not for many of us.

The Office of National Statistics has released the latest statistics on marriages in England and Wales, which confirm that marriage rates remain at historical lows and those who are choosing to get married now do so much later in life.

The average age for first time men getting married in 2016 was 33.4 years old and for women it was 31.5 years old. This compares to averages ages of 25.1 years for men and 22.8 years for women back in the 1970s. In those days, 90% of all women were married by the age of 30. However, in 2016 only a third of women and just under a quarter of men were married by that age.

Marriage rates for same-sex couples are understandably on the increase, as same-sex couples have only been allowed to marry since 29 March 2014. However, they too are getting married later in life with the average age for single men marrying at 39.5 and the average age for single women at 35.4. More female than male same-sex couples choose to marry.

Unmarried couples are still the fastest growing family type. Some couples will go on to marry, but many will choose not to for a variety of reasons.

The average age at which we are having babies has also increased, with the average age for first time mums now 28.8 years old. The fact that this is younger than the average age for marriage reflects that many more are now choosing to have children outside marriage.

Settling down later in life means that people have often built up their own assets and they may own their own property by the time they move in with their partner. What happens to these assets in the event of a future separation or on death is likely to depend on whether or not the couple are married or cohabiting.

The law is currently very different with each option and this has significant implications for what can happen financially and, potentially, to the arrangements for any children further down the line.

It is therefore increasingly important that people understand the legal implications of living with a partner and of getting married, and the steps that can be taken to protect positions, before choosing what is best for their family.

Karen McGonagle