The latest research published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that divorce rates have fallen to record lows in recent years, with UK couples waiting longer to tie the knot and exploring a wider range of options in terms of living arrangements and separation.

According to the data, the number of opposite-sex UK couples divorcing has been slowly declining in recent years, with only 101,055 couples divorcing in 2015 – the lowest figure on record since 1971.

The statistics reveal the greatest falls in the number of couples divorcing in more than 40 years – with divorces dropping by more than a third between 2003 and 2015 and by 9.1 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

One theory behind the significant fall in divorces is that UK couples today tend to think through long-term commitments such as marriage more carefully than they did several years ago.

A commonly-held belief is that couples who get married at an early age are more likely to divorce or separate.

One piece of research which recently examined a sample of women that had married their ‘high school sweethearts’ while they were still in their teens found that more than half (53 per cent) had divorced before their 30th wedding anniversary.

Yet the ONS’ new data suggests that marriages where one party is still in their teens have seen the sharpest decline of all age groups since 2009 – which evidently has had a knock-on effect on overall divorce rates in recent years.

In many cases, British couples both young and old are often deciding against marriage altogether these days, the ONS has found.

Previous data published by the ONS last year recently found that the number of cohabiting couples in the UK has doubled over the last 20 years – suggesting that cohabitation is now the nation’s fastest-growing family type.

However, it is worth noting that cohabiting couples have very limited legal rights and that a relationship breakdown under these circumstances could prove much more problematic than a divorce – particularly with the likes of pre and post-nuptial agreements in existence to alleviate the bitter nature of broken marriages in modern times.