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3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/09/2002   
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Special Article - Marriage and divorce in Australia


Special article published in Australian Demographic Statistics, Australia, (Cat. No. 3101.0) March Quarter 2002



MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE TRENDS

In 2001 there were 103,100 marriages registered in Australia, the lowest number recorded since 1978 (103,000). The 2001 figure was a decrease of 10,300 marriages when compared with 2000 and a decrease of 10,800 marriages when compared with 1981.

While marriage rates per 1,000 unmarried population (aged 15 years and over) are not yet available for 2001, the marriage rate trend since 1981 shows that the occurrence of marriage is declining. Marriage rates for the unmarried population fell in 2000 to 34 per 1,000 unmarried men and 32 per 1,000 unmarried women from 35 and 33, respectively in 1999 and 55 and 53, respectively in 1981.

There were 55,300 divorces granted in Australia in 2001, the highest number granted in the last 20 years. This was an increase of 5,400 on the number of divorces granted in 2000 and an increase of 13,900 on 1981.

Divorce rates for the married population are not yet available for 2001. However, since 1981 divorce rates, while fluctuating, have shown an increasing trend. In 1987 the divorce rate was at a low of 11 divorces per 1,000 married population. Since 1987, divorce rates, while still fluctuating, have shown an upward trend to a high of 13 in 1996. The divorce rate in 2000 was 12.

MARRIAGE RATES(a) AND DIVORCE RATES(b)

Graph - MARRIAGE RATES(a) AND DIVORCE RATES(b)
(a) Per 1,000 unmarried men or women, aged 15 years and over.
(b) Per 1,000 married men and women, aged 15 years and over.


INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS

The crude marriage rate in Australia of 5.3 per 1,000 population in 2001 was lower than in the United States of America (8.3 per 1,000 in 1998), the same as New Zealand (5.3 in 1998) and above that of the United Kingdom (5.1 in 1998) and Canada (5.1 in 1997).

The crude divorce rate in Australia was 2.8 per 1,000 population in 2001. It was lower than the United States of America (4.2 per 1,000 in 1998) and the United Kingdom (2.9 in 1996) and higher than New Zealand (2.7 in 1998) and Canada (2.3 in 1997).


AGE AT MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE

The trend towards older age at marriage continued in 2001. The median age at marriage for men was 31 years, rising from 26 years in 1981. For women the median age rose to 29 years in 2001 from 23 years in 1981. The median age at first marriage also rose. In 2001 it was 29 years for men, increasing from 24 years in 1981. For women, the median age at first marriage was 27 years in 2001, increasing from 22 years in 1981.

In line with the increasing age at marriage the median age at divorce also rose. In 2001 the median age at divorce for men was 42 years (up from 36 years in 1981) and 39 years for women (up from 33 years in 1981).


INTRODUCTION OF THE FEDERAL MAGISTRATES SERVICE

In September 2000 the Federal Magistrates Service was introduced. The Federal Magistrates Service was established to provide a simpler and accessible service for litigants and to ease the workload of both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia.

In 2001, the first full year of operation, 51% of all divorces granted were dealt with by the Federal Magistrates Service. All states and territories, with the exception of Western Australia, had a high proportion of cases administered by the Federal Magistrates Service. The Northern Territory had the highest proportion (76%), while Queensland had the lowest (45%). The Federal Magistrates Service was not introduced in Western Australia and all decrees granted in that state were dealt with by the Family Court.


DIVORCES GRANTED, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Service

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.

Family Courtno.
5,777
5,586
6,591
2,278
5,351
690
109
651
27,033
Federal Magistrates Serviceno.
10,280
8,136
5,494
2,267
-
749
338
1,033
28,297
Totalno.
16,057
13,722
12,085
4,545
5,351
1,439
447
1,684
55,330
Family Court%
36.0
40.7
54.5
50.1
100.0
47.9
24.4
38.7
48.9
Federal Magistrates Service%
64.0
59.3
45.5
49.9
-
52.1
75.6
61.3
51.1
Total%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0



CATEGORY OF CELEBRANT

Marriages performed by civil celebrants now outnumber marriages performed by ministers of religion. In 2001, for the third successive year, 53% of all marriages were performed by civil celebrants, compared with 38% in 1981.

New South Wales was the only state or territory in which marriages performed by ministers of religion marginally outnumbered those by civil celebrants during 2001 (18,200 compared with 17,900). The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of marriages performed by civil celebrants (73%).


COHABITATION PRIOR TO MARRIAGE

The proportion of men and women choosing to cohabit prior to entering a registered marriage continued to rise. In 2001, 72% of couples indicated they had cohabited prior to marriage compared with 31% in 1981.


DURATION OF MARRIAGE OF DIVORCING COUPLES

In 2001, 17% of couples had divorced within the first five years of marriage, while a further 26% had divorced in the following five-year period. The most common single interval between marriage and divorce was between five and six years (6%). In 2001 the median duration of marriage to divorce was 12 years, up from 10 years in 1981.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Further information about marriage and divorce in Australia is available in Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 3310.0) released on 22 August 2002.


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