3307.0.55.001 - Divorces, Australia, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/11/2005   
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1 Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3307.0.55.001) provides information on divorces granted in Australia in 2004. Information on marriages registered in 2004 is available in the electronic product, Marriages, Australia (cat.no. 3306.0.55.001), released 14 October 2005.


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 This becomes absolute after one month unless it is rescinded, appealed against, or the Court has not declared its satisfaction that proper arrangements having been made for the welfare of children involved.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 Family Law legislation provided that these cases could be continued under the superseded legislation or transferred and heard under the Family Law legislation.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 divorces registered (granted) in a calendar year. The statistics are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by the Family Court of Australia (FCA). The FCA provide combined data from Federal Magistrates Court registries and Family Court registries.

6 In the interpretation of data it is important to recognise 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


30 703
35 825
39 436
37 374
41 273
40 865
39 902
39 592


Introduction of Federal Magistrates Court 2000

7 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.

8 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 with 1999) and increase in divorces granted in 2001 (11% increase compared with 2000).

9 In 2004, 91.4% of divorces in Australia were administered by the FMC compared with 63.9% in 2003 and 58.5% in 2002. 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 Western Australia where the Family Court of Western Australia administers all divorces in that state.

PROPORTION OF DIVORCES GRANTED, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court



- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) The Family Court of Western Australia operates in Western Australia.

Changes in provision and processing of data since 2002

10 The FCA provided the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) with electronic files, containing divorce data from each Court Registry as well as the FMC and the Family Court of Western Australia. From 2002 onwards monthly data was replaced by the provision of an annual file. This arrangement 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 since 2002

11 As part of the new data provision arrangements between the FCA and ABS in 2002 a number of data items ceased to be collected. These included:

  • Characteristics of divorce
  • Marriage place
  • Characteristics of husband and wife
  • Occupation at application


State or territory of usual residence

12 Details of divorce on a state or territory of usual residence at separation basis are considered to be a more accurate reflection of divorce in 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.

13 Data is only available based on state or territory of registration and is not a reliable proxy for usual residence because 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.

14 The Brisbane Family Court, prior to 2000, heard divorce cases from areas surrounding Lismore and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. From 2000 to 2003, 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. However, these responsibilities were transferred back to the Brisbane Family Court and Brisbane Federal Magistrates Court in 2004.

15 The Australian Capital Territory Family Court hears cases from much of south-eastern New South Wales and part of Victoria. Another factor that impacts on 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.

16 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

17 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 data 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 other states and territories, the rates of the Australian Capital Territory are not representative of the Australian Capital Territory population.


18 The latest available ERP estimates by marital status are at 30 June 2001 and are based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing (2001 census). In this publication marital status estimates at 30 June 1997 to 30 June 2000 have been revised and together with 2001 estimates are now final. Marital status estimates at 30 June 2002, 2003 and 2004 are not yet available. This impacts on the data available on first marriage and remarriage rates.

19 For ERP estimates by marital status, persons aged 14 years and under are automatically classified as never married.

20 From July 1998, data on the marital status of overseas arrivals and departures is derived from visa applications (only for certain visa classes) and is therefore not available for a high proportion of movers (mainly Australian or New Zealand citizens). Due to this, the 1997-98 distribution of overseas arrivals and departures by age, sex and marital status is used for the post-1998 overseas migration component of ERP estimates by marital status.

Reliability of estimates

21 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 months after the end of the financial year and final estimates after the following census. The estimates in this publication, with the exception of marital status estimates for which 2002 and 2003 data are not available, are final for the years prior to 2002 and preliminary for 2002 and 2003 and 2004.


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).

Suppression of small cells

25 For divorces data, cells with small values have been suppressed to protect confidentiality. Table 7 of the Divorces 2004 Data Cube, that contain duration of marriage data have been affected such that it is not possible to compare with previous years.

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 free of charge on the ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au>.

      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 has been released annually in state and territory specific electronic products, Demography (cat. nos 3311.0-8.55.001) since the 2002 reference year. This compendium data is also available in hardcopy form between reference years 1996 to 2001 (cat. nos 3311.1-8) . 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.


30 The following is a list of special articles containing information on marriages, divorces, children, families and general living arrangements.

      AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL TRENDS (cat no. 4102.0)
          Balancing family and work, edition 2003, p.40
          Changing families, edition 2003, p.35
          Echoes of the baby boom ,edition 2004, p.7
          Families with no employed parent, edition 2004, p.46
          Farming families, edition 2003, p.45 Formal child care, edition 2004, p.57
          Future living arrangements, edition 2005, p.7
          Grandparents raising their grandchildren, edition 2005, p.44
          Informal child care provided by grandparents, edition 2005, p.47
          People in their 20s: then and now, edition 2005, p.18
          Recent fertility trends, edition 2005, p.23
      YEAR BOOK AUSTRALIA (cat no. 1301.0)
          Patterns of child care use, Year Book Australia edition 1998, p.239
          Trends in child care, Year Book Australia edition 2002, p.164
          (For general social, demographic and population statistics, see Chapter 5)
          Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026, p.9