3307.0.55.001 - Divorces, Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/02/2005   
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1 This electronic product, Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3307.0.55.001) provides information on divorces granted in Australia in 2003. Information on marriages is now available in the new electronic product, Marriages, Australia (cat.no. 3306.0.55.001).


2 The Family Law Act 1975 came into operation throughout Australia on 5 January 1976, repealing the Matrimonial Causes legislation which had been operative since 1961. Under Family Law legislation the irretrievable breakdown of marriage is the only ground on which a divorce is granted. This ground is established by the husband and wife having lived apart for 12 months or more and there being no reasonable likelihood of reconciliation. Applications for nullity of a marriage under Family Law legislation must be on the ground that the marriage is void because of failure to meet a legal requirement such as that neither party be already lawfully married to another person. There is no provision for judicial separation under Family Law legislation.

3 Successful applicants for a divorce under Family Law legislation are initially granted a decree nisi. This becomes absolute after one month unless it is rescinded, appealed against, or the Court has not declared its satisfaction as to proper arrangements having been made for the welfare of children involved.

4 At the time of the introduction of the Family Law Act there were applications pending for divorce which had been previously filed under the Matrimonial Causes legislation. Family Law legislation provided that these cases could be continued under the superseded legislation or transferred and heard under the Family Law legislation. The ABS publication Divorces, Australia, 1976 (cat. no. 3307.0) differentiated between those cases in which a divorce was granted under Matrimonial Causes legislation and those cases in which a divorce was granted under Family Law legislation. Such differentiation is not made for subsequent years.


5 The divorce statistics shown in this publication relate to calendar years and are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by Family Court Registries.

6 In the interpretation of data it is important to bear in mind that the availability of judges and the complexity of the cases brought before them can affect the number of decrees made absolute or granted in any one year. A rise in numbers in one year may be due wholly or in part to the clearing of a backlog of cases from an earlier period. In addition, legislative changes and the expectation of new legislation, rules and practices may affect the number of applications.

Divorces applied for and granted in the same year, Australia




Form redesign 1995

7 The Family Court of Australia introduced a new divorce application form in February 1995. With the introduction of these forms some data items that had been collected ceased to be available. The data items that are no longer available are:
      Characteristics of divorce
          postcode and state of separation
          rite of marriage
          number of children aged over 18 years
          characteristics of the husband and wife
          previous marital status
          number of previous marriages
          occupation at separation
          date of first arrival in Australia
          duration of residence

Introduction of Federal Magistrates Court 2000

8 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.

9 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).

10 In 2003, 64% of divorces in Australia were administered by the FMC compared with 58% in 2002 and 51% in the first year of operation (2001). The FMC administered a higher proportion of divorces in all states and territories for both 2003 and 2002 (except for Western Australia where the Family Court of Western Australia is in operation).

PROPORTION OF DIVORCES GRANTED, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court





. .
. .
. .

. . not applicable
(a) The Family Court of Western Australia operates in Western Australia.

Changes in provision and processing of data 2002

11 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.

Changes to data items 2002

12 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


State or territory of usual residence

13 Details of divorce on a state or territory of usual residence at separation basis are considered to be a more accurate reflection of divorce for states and territories in Australia than are those provided on a state or territory of registration basis. These details are, however, only available for 1993 and 1994. State or territory of usual residence takes into account that some Family Courts have responsibility for hearing divorce cases relating to other states or territories. The Family Courts most affected are Brisbane and the Australian Capital Territory. The Brisbane Family Court, prior to 2000, heard divorce cases from areas surrounding Lismore and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. During 2000, the divorce cases from areas surrounding Lismore and Coffs Harbour that would normally have been heard in the Brisbane Family Court were transferred to the Newcastle Family Court in New South Wales. The Australian Capital Territory Family Court hears cases from much of south-eastern New South Wales and part of Victoria. Another factor influencing the difference between state or territory of usual residence and state or territory of registration is that many applications are lodged at the nearest Family Court rather than the court in their state or territory of usual residence at separation.

14 Divorces of persons usually resident in Jervis Bay Territory cannot be identified separately from those divorces of persons usually resident in the area covered by the Jervis Bay postcode. Hence divorces of persons usually resident in Jervis Bay Territory have been included in New South Wales.

State or territory of registration

15 The state and territory classification used in this product relates to state or territory of registration which is based on the location of the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court where the divorce is granted and registered. These figures can give a biased view of divorces in states and territories, as explained in the preceding paragraphs. Due to the large number of divorces granted in the Australian Capital Territory to usual residents of another state, the rates for the Australian Capital Territory are not representative of the Australian Capital Territory population.


16 This product uses estimates of the resident population of Australia as the denominator for calculating crude and age-specific divorce rates. The ERP is the official population estimates series compiled according to the place of usual residence of the population.

17 Australia's population estimates for the period since 1971 are compiled according to the place of usual residence of the population. An explanation of the place of usual residence conceptual basis for population estimates is given in Demographic Estimates and Projections: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Statistical Concepts Library, available on ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au>. From the navigation bar select Themes; Demography; Concepts, Sources and Methods.

Method of estimation

18 The estimates of the population of Australia and the states and territories at the date of the Census of Population and Housing are census counts based on place of usual residence, adjusted for under enumeration and the number of Australian residents estimated to have been temporarily overseas at the time of the census.

19 Post-censal estimates of the Australian population are obtained by adding to the population at the beginning of each period components of natural increase (on a usual residence basis) and net overseas migration. For states and territories, account is also taken of estimated interstate movements involving a change of usual residence. After each census, estimates are made for the preceding intercensal period by incorporating an additional quarterly adjustment (intercensal discrepancy) to ensure that the total intercensal increase agrees with the difference between the ERP at the two respective census dates.

Latest available ERP

20 To meet the conflicting demand for accuracy and timeliness, there are three estimates of ERP. At the national and state/territory levels preliminary estimates are available six months after the reference date, revised estimates are available 15 months after the end of the financial year and final estimates after the following census. The population estimates used in this product are final for years prior to and including 30 June 2001. Population estimates at 30 June 2002 and 2003 are revised.

ERP by marital status

21 Until 30 June 2001, post-censal population estimates by marital status were updated using the component method. The net overseas migration component was updated with information collected from incoming and outgoing passenger cards until 30 June 1998. At this time the cards were redesigned, excluding this data item and marital status could only be obtained from visa applications and was therefore no longer available for Australian and New Zealand citizens. From 30 June 1998 to 30 June 2001, this component was based on the pre June 1998 experience. These population estimates by marital status (1997 to 2001 period) have since been rebased and finalised on the 2001 census. Post 2001 population estimates by marital status are not yet available because the pre June 1998 experience is no longer relevant.


Reliability of estimates

22 Statistics are shown in units without being rounded. However, accuracy down to the last unit is not claimed and should not be assumed.

States and territories

23 As a result of an amendment, made in 1992, to the Acts Interpretation Act, the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands have been included as part of geographic Australia, hence another category of the state and territory classification has been created. This category, known as Other Territories, includes Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Jervis Bay Territory.

Country of birth

24 The classification of countries in this publication is the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC). For more detailed information refer to the ABS publication Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0). The SACC is also available in electronic form: Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) - on Floppy Disk (cat. no. 1269.0.15.001) . This classification replaces the Australian Standard Classification of Countries for Social Statistics (ASCCSS) used prior to 1999 (cat. no. 1269.0).

Suppression of small cells

25 Cells with small values have been randomised to protect confidentiality.

Related products

26 Other ABS publications which may be of interest are outlined below. Please note, older publications may no longer be available through ABS bookshops but are available through ABS libraries. All publications released from 1998 onwards are available on the ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au> (charges apply).

      Australian Demographic Statistics, cat. no. 3101.0 - issued quarterly
      Australian Historical Population Statistics, cat. no. 3105.0.65.001.
      Australian Social Trends, cat. no. 4102.0 - issued annually
      Demographic Estimates and Projections: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Statistical Concepts Library.
      Divorces, Australia, cat. no. 3307.0 - issued annually to 1993
      Estimated Resident Population by Marital Status, Age and Sex, Australia, cat. no. 3220.0 - issued annually to 1993
      Family Characteristics, Australia cat. no. 4442.0 - issued 1997
      Marriages, Australia, cat. no. 3306.0 - issued annually to 1993
      Marriages, Australia, cat. no. 3306.0.55.001 - issued annually from 2003
      Marriages and Divorces, Australia, cat. no. 3310.0 - issued annual from 1994 to 2002
      Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories, cat. no. 3201.0 - issued annually
      Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101, cat. no. 3222.0 - issued August 2000
      Standard Classification of Countries (SACC), cat. no. 1269.0 - issued 1998

27 A compendium of demographic data for each state and territory is released annually in state and territory specific electronic products, Demography (cat. nos 3311.0-8.55.001). Should users require detailed state and territory data on marriages, divorces or ERP prior to the release of these compendia please contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

28 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products (cat. no. 1101.0). The Catalogue is available from any ABS office or the ABS web site <http:\\www.abs.gov.au>. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.

Additional statistics available

29 As well as the statistics included in this and related products, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

      Characteristics of divorce
          Age of children of the marriage under 18 years
          Date of birth of children of the marriage under 18 years
          Date of filing of application
          Date of final separation
          Date of marriage
          Duration of marriage until divorce
          Duration of marriage until separation
          Month and year of divorce
          Number of children of the marriage under 18 years
          Postcode and state or territory of separation (available 1993 and 1994 only)
          Sex of applicant
          State or territory of registration
      Characteristics of the husband and wife
          Age at divorce
          Age at marriage
          Age at separation
          Country of birth (not available for 2002)
          Date of birth


30 The following is a list of special articles containing information on marriages, divorces, children, families and general living arrangements.
          Age at first marriage - reproduced from Australian Social Trends, (cat. no. 4102.0), edition 1996, p. 62
          Couple relationships at the 1996 Census of Population and Housing, edition 1997, p. 95
          Divorced women and their socioeconomic status, edition 2001, p. 87
          Divorces by country of birth, edition 1999, p. 113
          Divorces involving children, edition 2001, p. 101
          Divorce in the nineties, edition 1999, p. 121
          Families in Australia, edition 1994, p. 15
          How many marriages end in divorce? Recent trends, edition 1994, p. 9
          Lifetime marriage formation and marriage dissolution patterns in Australia, edition 2000, p. 84
          Registered marriage trends through the twentieth century, edition 2000, p. 92
          Registered marital status and living arrangements, edition 1997, p. 85
          Remarriage trends of divorced people - reproduced from Australian Social Trends (1999), (cat. no. 4102.0), edition 1998, p. 70
          Trends in de facto partnering - reproduced from Australian Social Trends (1995), (cat. no. 4102.0), edition 1995, p. 67
      AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL TRENDS (cat no. 4102.0)
          Adoptions, edition 1998, p. 33
          Age at first marriage, edition 1997, p. 27
          Caring for children after parents separate, edition 1999, p. 42
          Child care, edition 1998, p. 38
          Child care, edition 1994, p. 47
          Child care arrangements. edition 2001, p. 41
          Children in families, edition 1995, p. 29
          Cultural diversity within marriage, edition 2000, p. 52
          Families and work, edition 1997, p. 30
          Family planning, edition 1998, p. 29
          Family support, edition 1995, p. 41
          Living with parents, edition 1994, p. 43
          Lone fathers with dependant children, edition 1994, p. 40
          Looking after the children, edition 1999, p. 39
          One-parent families, edition 1997, p. 34
          People who live alone, edition 1996, p. 33
          People without partners, edition 2000, p. 3
          Principal carers and their caring roles, edition 1996, p. 44
          Remarriage trends of divorced people, edition 1999, p. 45
          Rural families, edition 1998, p. 42
          Trends in childlessness, edition 2002, p. 37
          Trends in de facto partnering, edition 1995, p. 38
          Trends in fertility, edition 1996, p. 36
          Trends in marriage and divorce, edition 1996, p. 33
          Young adults living in the parental home, edition 2000, p. 39.