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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Population

MARRIAGES, DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS AND DIVORCES

MARRIAGES

Marriage rates in Australia have fluctuated since 1901, broadly in response to prevailing economic and social conditions and changing age structures 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 120,100 marriages registered in Australia in 2009, resulting in a crude marriage rate of 5.5 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 1959 and 2009 are shown in graph 7.31, which shows that crude marriage rates in Australia have remained reasonably steady over the last 4 years.

Graph 7.31 Crude marriage rate(a)



In 2009, the median age at marriage was 31.5 years for males and 29.2 years for females (table 7.33). Until recently, the median age at marriage increased gradually over time for both males and females. Between 2006 and 2008, the median age for males remained at 31.6 years while the median age for females was stable at 29.3 years between 2005 and 2008. In 2009, the median age of males marrying for the first time was 29.6 years, and 27.7 years for females. The gradual increase in the age profile of people marrying for the first time, as shown in graph 7.32, has stabilised in recent years with the male median age at first marriage unchanged since 2006 and the female median age unchanged since 2008. Part of this increase can be attributed to the increasing incidence of de facto relationships. Another factor is young people staying in education longer.

Graph 7.32 Median age at first marriage


Data from the Registered Marriages Collection show that the majority of couples registering their marriage in 2009 lived together before marriage (77%). Marriage data for such couples were first collected in 1997. Since then, the proportion of couples living together prior to marriage decreased only once, in 2009. This decrease follows a larger than usual increase in the proportion of marriages where couples lived together prior to marriage between 2007 and 2008.
Widowed males who remarried in 2009 were the least likely to have lived together before marriage and divorced females were the most likely. Only 62% of widowed males and 65% of widowed females who remarried in 2009 lived together before marrying their partner, while the proportion of those divorced who lived together prior to remarriage was 80% for males and 81% for females.

Table 7.33 shows summary measures for marriages between 1999 and 2009.


7.33 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF MARRIAGE
MEDIAN AGE AT MARRIAGE
Registered marriages
Crude marriage rate(a)
Males
Females
Year
'000
rate
years
years

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
31.5
29.3
2006
114.2
5.5
31.6
29.3
2007
116.3
5.5
31.6
29.3
2008
118.8
5.5
31.6
29.3
2009
120.1
5.5
31.5
29.2

(a) Marriages per 1,000 population.
Source: Marriages, Australia (3306.0.55.001); Australian Historical Population Statistics (3105.0.65.001).


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 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. Graph 7.34 shows the age distribution of male and female partners in de facto relationships in 2006.

Graph 7.34 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. 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 7.35).

Graph 7.35 Persons in de facto relationships(a) - 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 an average 0.8 divorces per 1,000 population between 1961 and 1970. The most important factor involved in the higher divorce rates in the last 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 2.2 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population (graph 7.36), with the 2008 crude divorce rate of 2.2 per 1,000 population being the lowest since 1975. In 2009, the crude divorce rate was 2.3 divorces per 1,000 population (table 7.38).

Graph 7.36 Crude divorce rate(a)



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 7.37). In 2009, the median duration of marriage to separation was 8.7 years compared with 7.9 years in 1999, while the median duration of marriage to divorce was 12.3 years compared with 11.3 years in 1999. The 2009 rates are slightly lower than the peaks of 8.9 years in 2006 for median duration of marriage to separation and of 12.6 years in 2005 for median duration of marriage to divorce.

Graph 7.37 Median duration of marriage to separation and divorce



In 2009, 6.2% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 33% within the first five years and a further 22% were separated within five to nine years of marriage. Of divorcing couples in 2009, 17% were married less than five years, 24% between five and nine years and 59% were married for 10 years or more. Around 17% of divorces occurred to couples who had been married for 25 years or more.

Table 7.38 shows summary measures for divorces in the period 1999 to 2009.


7.38 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF DIVORCE

MEDIAN AGE AT DIVORCE
Divorces granted
Crude divorce rate(a)
Males
Females
Year
'000
rate
years
years

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
2006
51.4
2.5
43.9
41.1
2007
48.0
2.3
44.2
41.3
2008
47.2
2.2
44.1
41.4
2009
49.4
2.3
44.4
41.5

(a) Divorces per 1,000 population.
Source: Divorces, Australia (3307.0.55.001); Australian Historical Population Statistics (3105.0.65.001).

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.

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