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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, this had declined to 31 and 28 respectively.
The trend towards older age at marriage continued in 2003. The median age at marriage for men was 31 years, rising from 29 years in 1993. For women the median age at marriage rose to 29 years from 26 years in 1993. The median age at first marriage has increased for men from 27 years in 1993 to 29 years in 2003, and for women from 25 years to 27 years (graph 5.45). 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 2003 reflects a continuation of the 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, increasing to 27% in 1983, while 75% of couples cohabited prior to marriage in 2003. Widowed males were the least likely to have cohabited before marriage, with divorced males and females the most likely. Only 56% of widowed males and 62% of widowed females cohabited before marrying their partner, while the proportion of divorced males and females who cohabited prior to remarriage was 81%.
Table 5.46 shows summary measures for marriages between 1993 and 2003.
DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS
Between 1996 and 2001, the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto marriages 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 persons 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 marriages. In 2001 the median age of males in a de facto marriage 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 5.47 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 those aged under 35 years, counterbalanced by higher proportions of separated and divorced de facto partners aged 35 years and over (graph 5.48).
For most of the 20th century there was a slow but steady rise in the divorce rate, increasing from annual averages of 0.1 divorces per 1,000 population between 1901 and 1910 to 0.8 per 1,000 between 1961 and 1970. However, 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 until 1979 as the backlog of applications was cleared. Since then the crude divorce rate has fluctuated between 2.4 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population (graph 5.49).
The crude divorce rate (the number of divorces per 1,000 population) has changed little over recent years. This rate was 3 per 1,000 in 2002 and 2003, and also in 1983. As the estimated resident population of Australia by marital status for the years following 2001 is not yet available, the latest divorce rates based on the married population are for 2001. The divorce rate of the married population in 2001 was 13 per 1,000 married men or women. This represents an increase from the rate of 12 per 1,000 married men or women in 2000 and in 1991.
The median duration of marriage to both separation and divorce is increasing over time, revealing that marriages are, on average, lasting longer (graph 5.50). The median duration of marriage to separation in 2003 was 8.7 years, compared with 8.6 years in 2002 and 7.6 years in 1993. The median duration of marriage to divorce in 2003 was 12.2 years, compared with 12.0 years in 2002 and 10.7 years in 1993.
In 2003, 6% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 33% within the first 5 years and a further 22% were separated within 5-9 years of marriage. Of the divorcing couples in 2003, 17% 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 5.51 shows summary measures for divorces granted in the period 1993 to 2003.