3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2017  
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION


1
This publication contains statistics on marriages that were registered, and divorces that were granted, in Australia, in 2017.

2
The Marriage Act 1961 came into full operation on 1 September 1961. Under the Act, marriages may be celebrated by a minister of religion registered as an authorised celebrant, by a district registrar or by other persons authorised by the Attorney-General. Notice of the intended marriage must be given to the celebrant within 18 months of the marriage, but no later than one month and one day prior to it. Under certain circumstances, however, this time can be shortened. A celebrant must lodge an official certificate of the marriage for registration to a district registrar in the State or Territory in which the marriage took place within 14 days.

3
From 20 June 1973, the minimum age at which a person may marry without parental consent was reduced from 21 years to 18 years. Further amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 in 1991 designated the minimum age at which persons are legally free to marry to be 18 years. Persons between the age of 16 years and 18 years may marry with parental or guardian consent and an order from a judge or magistrate. Any two persons under the age of 18 years may not marry each other.

4 Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came into effect on the 9 December 2017 enabling same-sex couples to legally marry in Australia. The right to marry under Australian law is no longer determined by sex or gender and the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) form has been updated to reflect these changes. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has worked in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department and the state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages to collect and publish statistics on the sex of marrying parties from the date of this legislative change.

5 Under the Family Law Act 1975, the irretrievable breakdown of marriage is the only basis 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 is 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 in Australia 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 have been made for the welfare of children involved.

7
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publication Divorces, Australia, 1976 (cat. no. 3307.0) differentiated between those cases in which a divorce was granted under the former Matrimonial Causes legislation and those cases in which a divorce was granted under the Family Law Act 1975. Such differentiation is not made for subsequent years.

8
Statistics on marriages for 2003-2007 were published in Marriages (cat. no. 3306.0.55.001), and divorce statistics for 2002-2007 were published in Divorces (cat. no. 3307.0.55.001).

SCOPE AND COVERAGE


Scope of Marriage Statistics


9
The scope of the collection is all marriages registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each Australian State and Territory for the 2017 processing period.

10 Marriages registered on Norfolk Island since 1 July 2016 are included in this publication. This is due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Norfolk Island registered marriages are included in statistics for New South Wales and for all of Australia. Marriages registered on Norfolk Island prior to 1 July 2016 were not in scope for marriage statistics.

11
Marriages of overseas residents visiting Australia are included in these statistics. Marriages of Australian residents that take place overseas are not included in these statistics.

Coverage of Marriage Statistics


12
Coverage of marriage statistics in Australia is considered complete as all marriages that take place in Australia are recorded as legal events. The celebration and registration of a marriage do not always occur in the same year.

13
As a result, the ABS advises that a number of marriages celebrated in one year are registered in another year. Changes in the number of marriage registrations outside of the year in which they occur can impact annual counts.

14 Ideally, for compiling annual time series, the number of marriages should be recorded and reported as those which occurred within a given reference period, such as a calendar year. However, there can be lags in the registration of marriages with the state or territory registries and so not all marriages are registered in the year that they occur. There may also be further delays to the ABS receiving notification of the marriage from the registries due to processing or data transfer lags. Therefore, every marriage record will have:
  • a date on which the marriage is celebrated (the date of occurrence)
  • a date on which the marriage is registered with the state and territory registry (date of registration); and
  • a date on which the registered marriage is lodged with the ABS and deemed in scope.

15 With exception to the statistics published by Year of Occurrence section (Data cube 4), all marriages referred to in this publication relate to the number of marriages registered, not those which actually occurred, in the years shown.
Scope of Divorce Statistics

16
The scope of the collection is all divorces granted (decree made absolute) in Australia for the current 2017 calendar year.


Coverage of Divorce Statistics


17
Coverage of divorce statistics in Australia is considered complete as all divorces granted are recorded legal decisions. In the interpretation of data it is important to bear in mind that the availability of judges and the complexity of the cases brought before them can affect the number of decrees made absolute or granted in any one year. A rise in numbers in one year may be due wholly or in part to the clearing of a backlog of cases from an earlier period. A small proportion of divorces are granted several years after application. Specific information about the lag between application for and the granting of divorce is no longer provided by the Family Court of Australia (FCA).

CLASSIFICATIONS

Socio-Demographic Classifications


18
A range of socio-demographic data is available from the marriages and divorces collection. Standard classifications used in the presentation of marriages and divorces statistics include age, sex, and birthplace. Additional standard classifications used in the presentation of marriages statistics include previous marital status and children of previous marriages. Statistical standards for social and demographic variables have been developed by the ABS.

Marital Status


19
Within this publication, previous marital status relates only to registered marital status, that is, formally registered marriages or divorces for which the partners hold a certificate.

20
For further information about Registered Marital Status versus Social Marital Status Status refer to Family, Household and Income Unit Variables (cat. no. 1286.0).

Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG)


21
The Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2016 was released in July 2016 and was used for classifying marriage rites for 2017. Marriage rites from 2006 to 2016 were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2005. A concordance has been created between the 2005 and 2016 classification codes to ensure continuity of time series. From 1996 to the 2005 collection, marriage rites were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 1996. Prior to 1996, marriage rites were coded according to a non-standard classification developed within the ABS.

22
For further information about Religious Groups refer to Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) (cat. no. 1266.0) (2016).

23 Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came into effect on the 9 December 2017 enabling same-sex couples to legally marry in Australia. When completing Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) forms, parties may choose to use the term that best describes their gender. There are three options for sex: ‘Male’, ‘Female’ and ‘X’ (any person who does not choose to identify as either male or female). Marriages registered where both partners identified as female are referred to in ABS marriages statistics as a female same-sex marriage, and marriages where both partners identified as male are described as a male same-sex marriage. Registered marriages where one or more persons have not identified as either male or female have been excluded from counts of male or female same-sex marriages, and can not be tabulated separately due to confidentiality reasons. These marriages are included in counts of total registered marriages.

DATA SOURCES

Marriages


24
The registration of marriages is the responsibility of individual State and Territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This information is provided to the ABS by individual Registrars for coding and compilation into aggregate statistics shown in this publication.

Divorces


25
The divorce statistics shown in this publication relate to divorces granted in the 2017 calendar year. The statistics are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by the Family Court of Australia (FCA). The FCA provides combined data from the registries of the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC), the Family Court of Western Australia (FCWA) and the FCA.

Changes in provision and processing of divorces data


26
The FCA provides the ABS with electronic files, containing divorce data from each Court Registry as well as the FMC and the FCWA.

27
Since 2005, all divorce processing has been completed by the FCA rather than the ABS. The ABS advises that under these arrangements, the medians at the total level for specific geographical regions in tables 5 and 6 are not available (e.g. total of Oceania and Antarctica, total North-West Europe, etc.).

SPECIFIC ISSUES FOR 2017 DATA


28
The data item "number of children of previous marriages" has not been published for a number of years due to data quality issues. The Notice of Intended Marriage form only collects the number of children from previous registered marriages and therefore excludes children born out of wedlock. This will affect the accuracy of the number of children affected by marriage.

29
Duration of residence (years and months) data for marriage statistics has not been available for certain States and Territories, nor at a national level from 2005.

30
The Family Law Court introduced the eFiling system in September 2009 whereby a divorce application can be electronically submitted from anywhere in the world. The divorce hearings are conducted at selected locations/cities, and parties do not need to attend the divorce hearing; however, they must provide the necessary documentation and evidence before a divorce is granted. The ABS does not receive details of whether a divorce has been processed through the eFiling system.

31
Due to administration factors, the Victorian marriages data for 2012 and 2013 have been been subjected to systematic sampling and have had a weighting applied for all subtotal categories. Please see Explanatory Note 32 for further information.

STATE AND TERRITORY DATA


Marriages


32
Marriage statistics are based upon the State or Territory in which the marriages are registered, rather than the State or Territory of usual residence of the applicants. This needs to be considered when interpreting or comparing State and Territory data. People who usually reside in one jurisdiction may choose to marry in a different jurisdiction. Overseas residents who marry while visiting Australia are included in marriage statistics by the State or Territory in which their marriage is registered. Marriages that occur in the Other Australian territories of Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Jervis Bay Territory are registered in the nearest State or Territory to where the marriage occurs. Norfolk Island registered marriages are included in statistics for New South Wales and for all of Australia

33 There are a range of administrative factors that can affect the processing of marriage registrations in a given year. These factors are often jurisdiction specific and can impact on the timeliness of marriages being registered and delay provision of data to the ABS. In recent years, several jurisdictional Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages have undertaken large scale digitisation and system redevelopment works which have impacted on the processing of registrations. Both Victoria and South Australia had a large number of marriages celebrated in 2015 that were not registered until 2016. This has contributed to a higher than normal count of marriage registrations in 2016. A higher than usual lag in marriage registrations in NSW in late 2017 has contributed to lower counts of marriages for this reference period.

34 Over the 2012 and 2013 reference periods, Victorian marriages data were compiled using a sampling method as files were unable to be provided electronically. The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages have since updated systems and processes, and in 2014 were able to supply a full electronic file of all marriages. Caution is advised when examining Victorian marriages data for 2012 and 2013, as estimates for those years will be less reliable than those for previous and subsequent years.

Divorces


35
The ABS considers that details of divorce on a State or Territory of usual residence at separation basis is 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.

36
The ABS advises that data for subsequent years are only available based on the location of the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court where divorce is granted and registered.

37
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 reliable and so are not made available through this publication.

38
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. Divorces registered on Norfolk Island are also included in statistics for New South Wales.

39
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.

40
The ABS also advises that administrative lags may impact on data. For example, the FCA have informed the ABS that in general, approximately 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year will not be granted until the following year.

GENERAL INFORMATION


Use of Rates

41
There are two different rates of marriage and divorce presented in this publication: crude marriage and divorce rates and age-specific marriage and divorce rates.

Crude marriage and divorce rates


42
Crude marriage and divorce rates provide a summary indicator which compares the number of people who marry or divorce within a specified reference year to the total estimated resident population as at 30 June of that year. This provides an indicator of change over time in the number of marriages and divorces within the population. All crude marriage and divorce rates prior to 2017 are as per previously published rates.

Age-specific marriage and divorce rates


43
Age-specific marriage and divorce rates give an indication of the proportion of males or females in a particular age group of a population registering their marriage or who are granted divorce in a given year. All age-specific marriage and divorce rates prior to 2017 are as per previously published rates. There are two types of age-specific divorce rates presented in this publication.

44
Age-specific marriage and divorce rates per 1,000 estimated resident population give the proportion of total estimated resident population for a given age group who are married or divorced in a specific reference year. This gives an indication of the number of males or females of a certain age who register their marriage or who are granted a 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 they are not legally eligible to marry in Australia and it is extremely unlikely that they would be eligible for divorce.

45
Age-specific divorce rates per 1,000 married population gives a more accurate representation of divorce rates 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.

Estimated Resident Population (ERP)


46
Estimates of Australia's population by age at the date of the census are derived from the Census of Population and Housing by adjusting census counts for under-enumeration and adding the number of Australian residents estimated to have been temporarily overseas at the time of the census.

47
Post-censal population estimates are obtained by advancing the previous year's estimates to the next year by subtracting deaths and adding births and net estimated interstate and overseas migration. After each census, estimates for the preceding inter-censal period are revised by incorporating an additional adjustment (inter-censal discrepancy) to ensure that the total inter-censal increase at each age agrees with the difference between the estimated resident populations at the two respective census dates.

Suppression of small cells and confidentialisation


48
Under the Census and Statistics Act 1901, the ABS is unable to release data which may identify individual contributors. The ABS advises that different methods of confidentialising may have been used over time.

49
Randomisation of marriage data was used to protect confidentiality of cells with small values up to and including 2003. From 2004 to 2013, small cells were suppressed to avoid the disclosure of potentially identifiable information. Therefore, 2003 and 2004 data with small values cannot be compared. From 2014, perturbation was introduced to maintain confidentiality. The data in this publication that relate to the years 2012 to 2017 have also been perturbed and results for those years may therefore be different from previously released data. For details regarding the methodology underpinning perturbation refer to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Conference paper.

50
For divorce data 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 and 2017.

Effects of rounding


51
Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between totals and sums of the component items.

Availability of marriages data items


52
When analysing time series data in this publication, it is important to note that in 2004, marriage registrations were sampled for the larger States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, while the other States and Territories were fully enumerated. Sampled forms were subject to full processing. For an explanation and calculation of the sampling error see Marriages Australia, 2004, Technical Notes (under Explanatory Notes). Full processing resumed for 2005.

53
A complete review of data items supplied to the ABS by the State and Territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages was conducted in 2005. A range of data items were not collected in 2005 due to issues relating to the quality and completeness of information supplied by marrying couples on the Notice of Intended Marriage form and differing State and Territory Registrar practices regarding recording of data items. Data items not available from 2005 onwards include:
    • birthplace of bride/groom father
    • birthplace of bride/groom mother
    • number of marriages of bride/groom
    • first marriage date of bride/groom
    • number of previous marriages bride/groom.

54
The data item "number of children of previous marriages" was not published in 2006 due to issues relating to the quality of the data. This data item was available for 2007 for selected states. It is not available from 2008 onwards.

Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)


55
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.

56
Birthplaces within Australia are coded to the State/Territory level where possible. The supplementary codes contain the relevant State and Territory 4-digit codes.

57
For further information about the SACC refer to Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0) (2011).

Main English-speaking Countries (MESC)


58
This refers to the main countries from which Australia receives, or has received, significant numbers of overseas settlers who are likely to speak English. These countries comprise the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and the United States of America. All other countries are classified as Non Main English-speaking countries (NMESC).

ABS PRODUCTS


59
ABS published outputs are available free of charge from the ABS website. 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.