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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

    The collection provides data on the number of divorces granted each year. Data include characteristics of each party to divorce (e.g. age at marriage, separation and divorce, country of birth); characteristics of the marriage (e.g. number of children, duration of marriage, ) and characteristics of divorce (e.g. type of application, state of registration, year of registration). Data are available by the State and Territory in which a divorce was registered.

    Data relating to divorces provide an indicator of family dissolution and can help to build a picture of family structure. Divorce registration statistics provide a unique measure of the social well-being of our society. The data tell not only of family formation but also of family dissolution for couples and children. This is important data for social program development and research.

    All divorces granted in Australia during the reference year.


    Conceptual framework
    The unit of collection is all divorces made absolute during the reference year.

    See Demographic Estimates and Projections: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Statistical Concepts Library on the ABS website

    Main outputs
    Number of divorces, Crude and age specific rates divorce rates, median duration of marriage, median interval between marriage and final separation, ages of parties at marriage and at divorce, children impacted by divorce, birthplace of divorcing parties .

    Age (5-year groups and single ages)
    Marital status
    Country of Birth - Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)

    Other concepts (summary)
    not applicable

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions
    Data is available at a state/territory level based on the location of the court at which the divorce application was filed. This does not necessarily reflect where the applicants are usually resident as people will generally file for divorce at their nearest court, regardless of state or territory boundaries.


    Frequency comments

    Divorces data have been collected and published for each year since prior to Federation. Some changes to content of the collection occurred when the Family Law Act 1975 came into operation throughout Australia in January 1976, repealing the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 which had been operative since 1961. The Matrimonial Causes Act established uniform grounds for divorce, superseding State and Territory laws.

    In February 1995 the Family Court of Australia introduced new application forms and the following details ceased to be obtained:

    • Postcode and State of separation.
    • Rites of marriage
    • Number of children over 18 years
    • Previous marital status of husband and wife
    • Number of previous marriages of husband and wife
    • Occupation at separation of husband and wife
    • Date of first arrival in Australia of husband and wife
    • Duration of residence of husband and wife

    Because of this and budgetary constraints, ABS processed only limited details on divorces in 1995. These details were:

    State or Territory of registration; date of birth of parties; age of parties at marriage, separation and divorce; duration of marriage until separation and divorce and sex of applicant.

    Introduction of Federal Magistrates Court 2000

    Since September 2000 Family Court Registries have supplied data on divorces granted by both the Family Court of Australia and the newly formed Federal Magistrates Court of Australia (formerly known as the Federal Magistrates Service). The Family Court of Australia (FCA) and the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC) are independent courts of justice that have concurrent jurisdiction in some areas of Federal Law, including Family Law.

    Due to the opening of the FMC and the transfer of cases that has occurred between the FCA and the FMC it is possible that the number of divorces granted in the year 2000 may include a small number of duplicate records. It is estimated by the FCA that the numbers are statistically insignificant (about 0.02%). An initial lag in the introduction of FMC hearings in 2000 and the subsequent processing of the backlog in 2001 may account for some of the decrease in divorces granted in 2000 (5% decrease compared to 1999) and increase in divorces granted in 2001 (11% increase compared to 2000). In 2004, 91% of divorces in Australia were administered by the FMC compared with 64% in 2003, 58% in 2002 and 51% in the first year of operation (2001). In 2004 the FCA administered only a handful of divorce cases across all states and territories. The FMC administered the vast majority of divorces in all states and territories except for Western Australia where the Family Court of Western Australia administers all divorces in that state. The FMC administered a higher proportion of divorces in all states and territories for both 2003 and 2002 (except for Western Australia).
      Changes in provision and processing of data from 2002

      The FCA provided the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) with monthly tapes (or electronic files) containing divorce data from each Court Registry as well as the FMC and the Family Court of Western Australia. Discussions between the FCA and the ABS during 2002 and 2003 determined that the monthly tapes provided to the ABS by the FCA would be replaced with an annual data file from 2002 onwards. Implementing the new arrangements, which included changes in both the FCA and ABS data processing systems, led to a delay in the release of 2002 divorce data and the unavailability of country of birth data for 2002.

      The new arrangements for data provision between the FCA and ABS incorporated a review of data item requirements. Based on stakeholder consultations and discussions with the FCA, the ABS decided to cease the collection of the following data items from 2002.

      Characteristics of divorce
      Marriage place

      Characteristics of husband and wife
      Occupation at application

      Changes in provision and processing of data from 2005
        In 2006, a memorandum of understanding was arranged between the ABS and the FCA in relation to the annual conduct of the divorces collection (1 August 2006 to 1 July 2008). The MOU encompassed the 2005 divorces publication. The FCA agreed to provide annual specified summary data tables in CSV format to the ABS based on agreed edits and calculations detailed in MOU. In 2004, divorces were initially processed by the FCA before being put through mainframe edit processes by the ABS.
          Data are stored electronically from 1977.


          Data availability comments

          12/08/2008 07:34 AM