A prominent judge has urged couples to only have children if their relationship is stable enough for them to get married.
Sir Paul Coleridge told the Daily Telegraph that if couples were strong enough to cope with the stresses and strains of bringing up a child then they should give serious consideration to the "protection" that marriage brings.
Sir Paul's comments came after his Marriage Foundation think-tank suggested parents who were not married were twice as likely to break up as those who were.
Sir Paul, who sits in the High Court as Mr Justice Colderidge and has spent his career as a family lawyer and judge, criticised feuding parents who put their own "rights" above those of their children, saying parenthood brought with it only "responsibilities and duties" to do one's best for a child.
Emphasising that he was not saying that people should not have children unless they were prepared to marry, he told the newspaper: "I don't think they should have children until they are sure that their relationship is stable enough to cope with the stresses and strains."
He added: "The reality of the family is very simple. If your relationship is stable enough to cope with the rigours of child rearing then you should consider seriously adding the protection of marriage to your relationship.
"If your relationship is not stable enough to cope with children you should not have them. You have a responsibility - you have no right to have children, you only have responsibilities if you have them."
The Office for National Statistics found earlier this year that the proportion of children born to unmarried mothers in England and Wales was a record 47.5% in 2012, the Telegraph said, up from 25% in 1988.
The Census of 2011 also found that the number of married people in England and Wales had fallen to 45%, from just over half the population a decade ago.
The judge, who is retiring next year, said there was political "ignorance" about the benefits of marriage, saying many politicians felt cohabitation and marriage were equivalent.
He suggested that marriages tend to last while cohabitation does less so, and that for children "stability is the name of the game".
Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice, told the Telegraph: "A lot of people don't realist that long-term cohabilitation with children is really rare - most people with children who are still together after many years are married.
"Long-term results show that there is something different about being married, it is more stable. People are bound together when they are married in a way that they are not if they are just living together."
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