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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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Contents >> Population >> Marriages, divorces and de facto relationships

MARRIAGES, DIVORCES AND DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS

Marriage rates in Australia have fluctuated since 1901, broadly in response to prevailing economic and social conditions and changing age structure over time. The crude marriage rate (the number of marriages registered in a calendar year per 1,000 population) has fallen in times of depression or recession (e.g. in the 1930s) and increased at other times such as during, and immediately after, the two world wars. Falls in the crude marriage rate since 1970 can be mainly attributed to changes in attitudes to marriage and living arrangements that have occurred since then.

There were 109,300 marriages registered in Australia in 2005, resulting in a crude marriage rate of 5.4 marriages per 1,000 population. The highest crude marriage rate recorded was 12.0 marriages per 1,000 population in 1942. Fluctuations in the crude marriage rate between 1955 and 2005 are shown in graph 7.41.

7.41 Crude marriage rate
Graph: 7.41 Crude marriage rate

Marriage rates for the unmarried population (per 1,000 not currently married men or women aged 15 years and over) have also fallen over time. In 1976 marriage rates for the unmarried population were 63 per 1,000 unmarried men and 61 per 1,000 unmarried women. By 2001, these rates had declined to 31 and 28 respectively.

The trend towards older age at marriage continued in 2005. The median age at marriage for men was 32 years, rising from 29 years in 1995. For women the median age at marriage rose to 30 years from 27 years in 1995. The median age at first marriage for men increased from 27 years in 1995 to 30 years in 2005, and for women from 25 years to 28 years (graph 7.42). Part of this increase can be attributed to the increasing incidence of de facto relationships. Another factor is young people staying in education longer.
7.42 Median age at first marriage
Graph: 7.42 Median age at first marriage

Marriage data for 2005 reflect a continuation of a 30-year trend of more Australian couples cohabiting prior to entering a registered marriage. In 1975, only 16% of couples cohabited prior to marriage, while 76% of couples cohabited prior to marriage in 2005. Widowed males who remarried in 2005 were the least likely to have cohabited before marriage and divorced males and females were the most likely. Only 58% of widowed males and 65% of widowed females who remarried in 2005 cohabited before marrying their partner, while the proportion of those divorced who cohabited prior to remarriage was 81% for both males and females.

Table 7.43 shows summary measures for marriages between 1995 and 2005.

7.43 Selected Summary measures of marriages

Median age at marriage
Registered marriages
Crude marriage rate(a)
Bridegroom
Bride
'000
no.
years
years

1995
109.4
6.1
29.2
26.8
1996
106.1
5.8
29.6
27.2
1997
106.7
5.8
29.7
27.5
1998
110.6
5.9
29.8
27.7
1999
114.3
6.0
30.1
27.9
2000
113.4
5.9
30.3
28.3
2001
103.1
5.3
30.6
28.6
2002
105.4
5.4
31.0
28.9
2003
106.4
5.3
31.2
29.1
2004
111.0
5.5
31.5
29.2
2005
109.3
5.4
32.0
29.7

(a) Marriages per 1,000 population.
Source: Marriages, Australia (3306.0.55.001); Marriages and Divorces, Australia (3310.0).


De facto relationships

Between 2001 and 2006, the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto relationships rose by 25% from 951,500 to 1,193,400. This was marginally lower than the increase between 1996 and 2001 (28%). In 2006, de facto partners represented 15% of all people living as socially married - that is, all those either in a registered marriage or a de facto relationship - up from 12% in 2001 and 10% in 1996. Total de facto partners in 2006 represented 7% of all persons aged 15 years and over, up from 6% in 2001 and 5% in 1996. These rises may be due to both increases in the number of de facto partners and in the willingness of people to identify themselves as living in de facto relationships. In 2006, the median age of males in de facto relationships was 35.3 years while the median age of females was 33.3 years. In 1996, the comparative medians were 34.4 years and 32.0 years respectively. Graph 7.44 shows the age distribution of male and female partners in de facto relationships in 2006.

7.44 De facto partners(a) - 2006
Graph: 7.44 De facto partners(a)—2006


De facto partnering has arisen as an alternative living arrangement prior to or instead of marriage, and also following separation, divorce or widowhood. Some couple relationships, such as that between a boyfriend and girlfriend who live together but do not consider their relationship to be marriage-like, are classified as de facto. Of all people in de facto relationships in 2006, 70% had never been in a registered marriage and 27% were either separated or divorced. The likelihood of being never married was higher among people aged under 35 years, counterbalanced by higher proportions of separated and divorced de facto partners aged 35 years and over (graph 7.45).

7.45 Persons in de facto relationships - 2006
Graph: 7.45 Persons in de facto relationships—2006

Divorces

For most of the 20th century, there was a slow but steady rise in the crude divorce rate (the number of divorces in a calendar year per 1,000 population), increasing from 0.1 divorces per 1,000 population for each year between 1901 and 1910 to 0.8 divorces per 1,000 population between 1961 and 1970. The most important factor involved in the higher divorce rates in the latter quarter of the century was the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cwlth) which came into operation on 5 January 1976. This legislation allows only one ground for divorce - irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, measured as the separation of the spouses for at least one year. Following the implementation of this law, there was a large increase in the divorce rate in 1976. The rate then declined over the next three years as the backlog of applications was cleared. Since then, the crude divorce rate has remained between 2.4 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population (graph 7.46). In 2005, the crude divorce rate was 2.6 divorces per 1,000 population.

7.46 Crude divorce rate
Graph: 7.46 Crude divorce rate

The most recent divorce rates based on the number of married men and women are for 2001. The divorce rate of the married population in 2001 was 13 divorces per 1,000 married men or women, slightly higher than the rate recorded in both 2000 and 1991 (of 12 divorces per 1,000 married men or women).

The median duration of marriage to both separation and divorce has increased since the late-1980s, revealing that marriages are lasting longer on average (graph 7.47). In 2005, the median duration of marriage to separation was 8.8 years compared with 7.6 years in 1995, while the median duration of marriage to divorce was 12.6 years compared with 11.0 years in 1995.

7.47 Median duration of marriage to separation and divorce
Graph: 7.47 Median duration of marriage to separation and divorce

In 2005, 6% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 32% within the first 5 years and a further 22% were separated within 5 to 9 years of marriage. Of divorcing couples in 2005, 15% were married less than 5 years, 25% between 5 and 9 years and 60% were married for 10 years or more. Around 16% of divorces occurred to couples who had been married for 25 years or more.

Table 7.48 shows summary measures for divorces granted in the period 1995 to 2005.

7.48 Selected Summary measures of Divorces

Median age at divorce
Divorces granted
Crude divorce rate(a)
Husband
Wife
'000
no.
years
years

1995
49.7
2.8
40.0
37.1
1996
52.5
2.9
40.2
37.4
1997
51.3
2.8
40.3
37.6
1998
51.4
2.7
40.5
37.8
1999
52.6
2.8
40.9
38.2
2000
49.9
2.6
41.4
38.6
2001
55.3
2.9
41.8
39.1
2002
54.0
2.7
42.2
39.5
2003
53.1
2.7
42.6
39.9
2004
52.7
2.6
43.0
40.3
2005
52.4
2.6
43.5
40.8

(a) Divorces per 1,000 population.
Source: Divorces, Australia (3307.0.55.001); Marriages and Divorces, Australia (3310.0).





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