Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. “That means many middle-aged men in particular who are cohabiting may well have been considering marriage at the time of a landmark legal ruling which established the principle of an equal division of their assets in the event of divorce.”Compared to that prospect, the lack of legal rights for unmarried partners to claim against each other may have seemed less of a deterrent.” The overall number of people who are single, divorced or widowed and aged 50 to 64 has reached 3.4 million, up from 2.1 million when records began in 2002.However, amongst all age groups, married is still the most common status, with the proportion of people who were married at 51 per cent, while the number who were single was just over one in three. Men fearing losing half their assets in divorce means there are growing numbers of cohabiting middle-aged couples, lawyers say.Data released by the Office for National Statistics suggests that the number of people in their sixties and seventies who are cohabiting with a partner having never married are higher than ever. “Over this 15-year period, cohabitation of those between 50 and 64 years who have never married or been in a civil partnership is becoming more common, increasing from 0.7 per cent in 2002 to 3.8 per cent in 2017.”Of all people who were never married aged 50 to 64 years, nearly 30 per cent of them cohabited in 2017 compared with just under 12 per cent in 2002,” the ONS report said. Almost 40,000 people in their late sixties were estimated to be doing this in 2017, compared to just 25,000 in 2016. The figures suggest that marriage is no longer a given even for couples in their sixties and older. Experts said the shift could partly be down to a landmark ruling in 2000, White v White, which led to a perception that wives would receive an equal share of assets following a divorce. Ellen Walker, an associate solicitor with Hall Brown Family Law, said: “Since the turn of the century, the average age at which people in England and Wales marry has hovered around the mid-thirties.