3307.0.55.001 - Divorces, Australia, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/11/2006  Reissue
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(Note - a new paragraph 19a has been added explaining the apparent increase in the number of divorces in WA in 2005 is a correction from the record low reported in 2004)



1 Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3307.0.55.001) provides information on divorces granted in Australia in 2005. Information on marriages registered in 2005 will be available in the electronic product, Marriages, Australia (cat.no. 3306.0.55.001), released 14 December 2006.


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 This becomes absolute after one month unless it is rescinded, appealed against, or the Court has not declared its satisfaction that proper arrangements having been made for the welfare of children involved.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 Family Law legislation provided that these cases could be continued under the superseded legislation or transferred and heard under the Family Law legislation.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 (FMC) registries and FCA registries.
6 In the interpretation of data it is important to note that not all divorces applied for are granted in the same year. Divorce applications are usually dealt with by a court registrar, rather than a judge, and are usually dealt with relatively quickly. However, around 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year are granted in the following year. The availability of judges and registrars, and the complexity of the cases brought before them, can affect the number of divorces granted in any one year.

7 In addition, legislative changes and the expectation of new legislation, rules and practices may affect the number of applications. In 2004 the government announced changes to reform the Family Law System in Australia. The major reforms are discussed below.

  • The establishment of a network of Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) located across the country. These Centres will provide separating couples an opportunity to resolve their child custody disputes without having to go to court. Fifteen FRCs began offering services on 3 July 2006. Around 50 other FRCs are expected to open in 2007 and 2008.
  • A new combined registry for the FCA and FMC will be established to make the court system easier to navigate. Combining registries will ensure that all applications (ie. not just divorce applications) are dealt with by the most appropriate court. Almost all divorce applications are dealt with by the FMC. This situation will not change because of combined registries.

8 The FCA and FMC will still accept a divorce application whether or not a separated couple seek the services of an FRC. However, a separating couple may choose to use the services of an FRC. The Commonwealth Government intends evaluating the effect of the FRCs. The form and timing of the evaluation is not yet known by the FCA, and it is not known if a quantitative measure of the efficacy of FRCs with respect to reducing divorces will be available. Therefore, if a decline in the number of divorces in future years is apparent, it should not necessarily be attributed to the introduction of FRCs without supporting evidence. It should be noted that the number of divorces has been in decline since 2001.


Introduction of Federal Magistrates Court 2000

9 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 FCA and the FMC are independent courts of justice that have concurrent jurisdiction in some areas of Federal Law, including Family Law.

10 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).

Changes in provision and processing of data since 2002

11 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.

12 In 2005 all divorce processing was completed by the FCA rather than the ABS. Under these new arrangements, the medians at the total level for specific geographical regions in tables 5 and 6 are not available (eg. total of Oceania and Antarctica, total North-West Europe, etc).

Changes to data items since 2002

13 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

14 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.

15 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.

16 The Brisbane Family Court, prior to 2002, heard divorce cases from areas in Northern NSW. In 2002 and 2003 these cases were dealt with by the Newcastle Family Court. From 2004 these responsibilities were transferred back to the Brisbane Family Court and Brisbane Federal Magistrates Court.

17 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.

18 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

19 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 crude divorce rate and age specific divorce rates of the Australian Capital Territory are not produced in this publication.

19a For Western Australia, the increase in the number of divorces is a correction from record low numbers in 2004. The low numbers in 2004 were due to a reduction in the late processing of 2003 divorces i.e. more 2003 divorce applications were actually processed in 2003, rather than being processed in early 2004. (In general, around 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year are registered in the following year). According to the FCA, the number of divorces registered in 2005 is considered more typical for WA. The national trend has been a slight decrease in the number of divorces since 2001 and WA figures are in line with this.


20 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 final. Marital status estimates at 30 June 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 are not yet available. This impacts on the data available on first marriage and remarriage rates.

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

Reliability of estimates

22 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, 2003, 2004 and 2005.


Reliability of estimates

23 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

24 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

25 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 - table 7

26 Up to and including 2003, randomisation was used to protect confidentiality of cells with small values in table 7. From 2004 onwards a different method of confidentialising was used. Therefore, data in table 7 cannot be compared between 2003 and 2004. However, it is valid to make comparisons between years up to 2003 and between 2004 and 2005.


27 There are many ABS publications which may be of interest. A useful listing of related publications is available on the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au> under Statistics by Topic > Population/People. All publications released from 1998 onwards are available free of charge on the web site. Please note, older publications may no longer be available through ABS bookshops but are available through ABS libraries. Some ABS publications which may be of interest are listed below
      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

28 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 or by sending an email to client.services@abs.gov.au.

29 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

30 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 or by sending an email to client.services@abs.gov.au.

Special articles

31 There are various special articles containing information on marriages, divorces, children, families and general living arrangements. Many of these articles can be found in AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL TRENDS (cat no. 4102.0). If this publication is accessed on the ABS website it includes a cumulative list of all articles. Other articles can also be found in YEAR BOOK AUSTRALIA (cat no. 1301.0) and Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2001 to 2026 (cat no. 3236.0).