1 This publication contains statistics on divorces granted in Australia.
2 Statistics on divorces for years prior to 2002 were published together with statistics on marriages in Marriages and Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3310.0).
3 The data presented in this publication are supplemented by a series of spreadsheets that are available on the ABS website. Any references to tables in the Explanatory Notes also refers to these spreadsheets.
4 A glossary is provided in the 'Explanatory Notes' tab detailing definitions of terminology used.
5 Under the Family Law Act 1975, the irretrievable breakdown of marriage is the only ground on which a divorce is granted. This ground is established by the husband and wife having lived apart for 12 months or more, and there being no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation. Applications for nullity of a marriage under Family Law legislation must be on the ground that the marriage is void because of failure to meet a legal requirement such as that neither party be already lawfully married to another person. There is no provision for judicial separation under Family Law legislation.
6 Successful applicants for a divorce under Family Law are initially granted a decree nisi. This becomes absolute after one month unless it is rescinded, appealed against, or the Court has not declared its satisfaction that proper arrangements having been made for the welfare of children involved.
7 At the time of the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975, there were applications pending for divorce which had been previously filed under the Matrimonial Causes legislation. Family Law legislation provided that these cases could be continued under the superseded legislation or transferred and heard under the Family Law legislation. The ABS publication Divorces, Australia, 1976 (cat. no. 3307.0) differentiated between those cases in which a divorce was granted under Matrimonial Causes legislation and those cases in which a divorce was granted under Family Law legislation. Such differentiation is not made for subsequent years.
SCOPE AND COVERAGE
8 The ABS divorce statistics collection includes all divorces granted by the Family Court of Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia, or the Federal Magistrates Court in Australia for the reference year.
9 A range of sociodemographic data is available from the divorces collection. Standard classifications used in the presentation of divorces statistics include age, sex and birthplace. Statistical standards for social and demographic variables have been developed by the ABS.
Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)
10 The SACC groups neighbouring countries into progressively broader geographic areas on the basis of their similarity in terms of social, cultural, economic and political characteristics. The SACC is the revised edition of the Australian Standard Classification of Countries for Social Statistics (ASCCSS). The SACC also incorporates previous revisions to the ASCCSS.
11 Birthplaces within Australia are coded to the state/territory level where possible. The supplementary codes contain the relevant state and territory 4-digit codes.
12 For further information about the SACC, refer to 1269.0 - Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 1998 (Revision 2.03)
13 The divorce statistics shown in this publication relate to divorces granted in a calendar year. The statistics are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by the Family Court of Australia (FCA). The FCA provide combined data from the registries of the Federal Magistrates Court, the Family Court of Western Australia and the FCA.
14 In the interpretation of data it is important to note that not all divorces applied for are granted in the same year. Divorce applications are usually dealt with by a registrar or magistrate and are usually dealt with relatively quickly (within 12 weeks of parties applying for a divorce). However, around 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year are granted in the following year.
15 In addition, legislative changes and the expectation of new legislation, rules and practices may affect the number of applications. In the 2005-06 budget, the Australian government allocated $397.2 million over four years to support a range of reforms to the law and the family law system. A major tenet of this reform is to prevent separation and so it would be expected to impact on numbers of divorces granted.
16 A new network of 65 Family Relationship Centres is a centrepiece of the reforms - 15 established in 2006, a further 25 established in 2007, and 24 in 2008. These centres provide a single entry point into the family law system. The centres also have a role in building strong, healthy relationships through helping couples access pre-marriage education and relationship skills training. Family Relationship Centres have been established in many regional as well as metropolitan centres and provide outreach services to rural and Indigenous communities. A national telephone advice line and website supports the Family Relationship Centres, providing information and advice for those unable to attend a centre in person.
17 The Australian Institute of Family Studies is conducting an evaluation of the family law reform package on behalf of the Australian Government. The evaluation will assess how the new family law system is working, and how families are faring under this new system.
Changes in provision and processing of data
18 The FCA provide the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) with electronic files, containing divorce data from each Court Registry as well as the FMC and the Family Court of Western Australia. From 2002 onwards, monthly data was replaced by the provision of an annual file.
19 Since 2005, all divorce processing has been completed by the FCA rather than the ABS. Under these new arrangements, the medians at the total level for specific geographical regions in tables 5 and 6 are not available (eg total of Oceania and Antarctica, total North-West Europe, etc).
STATE AND TERRITORY DATA
20 Details of divorce on a state or territory of usual residence at separation basis are considered to be a more accurate reflection of divorce in states and territories in Australia than are those provided on a state or territory of registration basis. These details are, however, only available for 1993 and 1994.
21 Data for subsequent years are only available based on the location of the Family Court of Federal Magistrates Court where divorce is granted and registered.
22 This is not considered a reliable proxy for usual residence because some Family Courts have responsibility for hearing divorce cases relating to residents of other states or territories. For example, courts in the Australian Capital Territory hears cases from much of south-eastern New South Wales and parts of Victoria because it is the nearest court for residents of this area. Due to the large number of divorces granted in the Australian Capital Territory to usual residents of other states and territories, the crude divorce rate and age specific divorce rates of the Australian Capital Territory are not produced in this publication.
23 Similarly, divorces of persons usually resident in Other Territories are registered in the nearest state or territory. For example, divorces of residents of Jervis Bay would generally be registered in New South Wales.
24 Prior to 2002, the Brisbane Family Court heard divorce cases from areas in Northern New South Wales. In 2002 and 2003 these cases were dealt with by the Newcastle Family Court. From 2004 these responsibilities were transferred back to the Brisbane Family Court and Brisbane Federal Magistrates Court.
25 For Western Australia, there was an increase in the number of divorces in 2005 which was a correction from record low numbers in 2004. The low numbers in 2004 were due to a reduction in the late processing of 2003 divorces i.e. more 2003 divorce applications were actually processed in 2003, rather than being processed in early 2004. In general, around 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year are registered in the following year. According to the FCA, the number of divorces registered in 2005 and 2006 is considered more typical for Western Australia. The national trend has been a slight decrease in the number of divorces since 2001 and Western Australian figures are in line with this.
Use of Rates
26 A number of different rates of divorce are presented in this publication. Crude divorce rate provides summary indicator which compares the number of people granted divorce in a year to the total estimated resident population as at 30 June of that year. This provides a rough indicator of change over time in the number of divorces controlling for changes in population.
27 Age-specific divorce rates give an indication of the proportion males or females in a particular age group of a population granted divorce in a given year. There are two types of age-specific divorce rates presented in this publication.
28 Age-specific divorce rates per 1,000 population gives the proportion of total estimated resident population for a give age-group who are granted divorce in a specific year. This gives a rough indication of number of males or females of a certain age granted divorce, controlling for changes in the age distribution of the population. In calculating these rates, people aged under 16 years are excluded from the population as it is extremely unlikely that they would be eligible for divorce.
29 Age-specific divorce rates per 1,000 married population gives a more accurate representation as it provides an indication of the proportion of married people of a certain age and sex who are granted divorce in a specific year. This data is only produced for years in which the Census of Population and Housing is conducted, as marital status of the Australian population is only available from the Census. In the census, all people aged under 15 years are assumed not to be married. Consequently, these people are excluded from the married population.
Suppression of small cells
30 Up to and including 2003, randomisation was used to protect confidentiality of cells with small values in this publication. From 2004 onwards, small cells have been suppressed to avoid the disclosure of potentially identifiable information. Therefore, 2003 and 2004 data with small values cannot be compared. However, it is valid to make comparisons between years up to 2003 and between years 2004 to 2007.
Estimated Resident Population (ERP)
31 To meet the conflicting demand for accuracy and timeliness there are three estimates of Estimated Resident Population (ERP). At the national and state/territory levels preliminary estimates are available six months after the reference date, revised estimates are available months after the end of the financial year and final estimates after the following census. The estimates in this publication are final for the years prior to 2002; revised for 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; final for 2006; and preliminary for 2007.
SPECIFIC ISSUES FOR 2007 DATA
Change to minimum age in calculating age-specific divorce rates
32 In the 2007 publication, a change has been made to the way in which age-specific rates for the total population are calculated. In the past, females aged under 16 years and males aged under 18 years were excluded from the population on the basis that it was unlikely they would be married, and therefore eligible for divorce. The distinction between male and female age limits is no longer relevant as minimum age requirements for a person to be married are the same for males and females, as legislated in the Marriages Act 1961. This change has been applied to 2006 and 2007 data presented in this publication.
EFFECTS OF ROUNDING
33 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between totals and sums of the component items.
34 The ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available.
35 Other ABS publications which may be of interest are outlined below. Please note, older publications may no longer be available through ABS bookshops but are available through ABS libraries. All publications released from 1994 onwards are available free of charge on the ABS website <http://www.abs.gov.au>.
Australian Demographic Statistics, cat. no. 3101.0 - issued quarterly
Australian Historical Population Statistics, cat. no. 3105.0.65.001.
Australian Social Trends, cat. no. 4102.0 - issued annually
Demographic Estimates and Projections: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Statistical Concepts Library.
Divorces, Australia, cat. no. 3307.0 - issued annually back to 1993
Estimated Resident Population by Marital Status, Age and Sex, Australia, cat. no. 3220.0 - issued annually back to 1993
Family Characteristics, Australia cat. no. 4442.0 - issued 1997
Marriages, Australia, cat. no. 3306.0 - issued annually back to 1993
Marriages, Australia, cat. no. 3306.0.55.001 - issued annually from 2003
Marriages and Divorces, Australia, cat. no. 3310.0 - issued annually from 1994 to 2002
Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories, cat. no. 3201.0 - issued annually
Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101, cat. no. 3222.0 - issued August 2000
Standard Classification of Countries (SACC), cat. no. 1269.0 - issued 1998
A compendium of demographic data for each state and territory has been released annually in state and territory specific electronic products, Demography
(cat. nos. 3311.0-8.55.001) since the 2002 reference year. This compendium data are also available in hardcopy form between reference years 1996 to 2001 (cat. nos. 3311.1-8) . Should users require detailed state and territory data on marriages, divorces or ERP prior to the release of these compendia, please contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are various special articles containing information on marriages, divorces, children, families and general living arrangements. Many of these articles can be found in Australian Social Trends
(cat no. 4102.0). If this publication is accessed on the ABS website it includes a cumulative list of all articles. Other articles can also be found in Year Book Australia
(cat no. 1301.0) and Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026
(cat no. 3236.0).
ABS products and publications are available free of charge from the ABS website <http://www.abs.gov.au
>. Click on Statistics to gain access to the full range of ABS statistical and reference information. For details on products scheduled for release in the coming week, click on the Future Releases link on the ABS homepage.
ADDITIONAL STATISTICS AVAILABLE
As well as the statistics included in this and related products, additional information is available from the ABS website at <http://www.abs.gov.au
> by accessing the topics listed at Themes>People. The ABS may also have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
This page last updated 28 August 2008