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MARRIAGES, DIVORCES AND DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS
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 2004. The median age at marriage for men was 32 years, rising from 29 years in 1994. For women the median age at marriage rose to 29 years from 27 years in 1994. The median age at first marriage for men increased from 27 years in 1994 to 29 years in 2004, and for women from 25 years to 28 years (graph 5.43). Part of this increase can be attributed to the increasing incidence of de facto relationships. Another factor is young people staying in education longer.
Marriage data for 2004 reflects a continuation of a 30-year trend for more Australian couples to cohabit 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 2004. Widowed males who remarried in 2004 were the least likely to have cohabited before marriage, with divorced males and females the most likely. Only 58% of widowed males and 64% of widowed females who remarried in 2004 cohabited before marrying their partner, while the proportion of divorced males and females who cohabited prior to remarriage was 81% and 82% respectively.
Table 5.44 shows summary measures for marriages between 1994 and 2004.
DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS
Between 1996 and 2001, the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto relationships rose by 28% from 744,100 to 951,500. This was marginally higher than the increase between 1991 and 1996 (27%). In 2001, de facto partners represented 12% of all people living as socially married (up from 10% in 1996 and 8% in 1991) and 6% of all persons aged 15 years and over (up from 5% in 1996 and 4% in 1991). 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 2001 the median age of males in de facto relationships was 34.2 years while the median age of females was 31.8 years. In 1991 the comparative medians were 32.3 years and 29.7 years respectively. Graph 5.45 shows the age distribution of male and female partners in de facto relationships in 2001.
De facto partnering has arisen as an alternative living arrangement prior to or instead of marriage, and 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 2001, 68% had never been in a registered marriage and 28% 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 5.46).
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 5.47). In 2004 the crude divorce rate was 2.6 divorces per 1,000 population.
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 5.48). In 2004 the median duration of marriage to separation was 8.7 years, compared with 7.6 years in 1994, while the median duration of marriage to divorce was 12.3 years, compared with 10.9 years in 1994.
In 2004, 6% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 33% within the first 5 years and a further 22% were separated within 5 to 9 years of marriage. Of divorcing couples in 2004, 16% were married less than 5 years, 25% between 5 and 9 years and 59% were married for 10 years or more. Around 16% of divorces occurred to couples who had been married for 25 years or more.
Table 5.49 shows summary measures for divorces granted in the period 1994 to 2004.