3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/08/2002   
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1 This publication brings together statistics and indicators for marriages and divorces registered in Australia. It also provides details of the marital status of the estimated resident population (ERP) of Australia.

2 A glossary is provided at the end of the publication detailing definitions of terminology used.

3 In this publication detailed statistics are provided for Australia and summary figures are given for states and territories.


4 The Marriage Act 1961 came into full operation on 1 September 1961.

5 Under the Act, marriages may be celebrated by a minister of religion registered as an authorised celebrant, by a district registrar or by other persons authorised by the Attorney-General. Notice of the intended marriage must be given to the celebrant at least one calendar month but within six calendar months before the marriage. A celebrant must transmit an official certificate of the marriage for registration to a district registrar in the state or territory in which the marriage took place. Marriages of overseas residents visiting Australia are included in these statistics.

6 From 20 June 1973, the minimum age at which a person may marry without parental consent was reduced from 21 to 18 years. Further amendment to the Marriage Act in 1991 designated the minimum age at which persons are legally free to marry to be 18 years. Persons between the age of 16 and 18 years may marry with parental or guardian consent and an order from a judge or magistrate. Any two persons under the age of 18 years may not marry each other.


7 Marriage statistics in this publication refer to marriages registered by the registrar in each state and territory during the year shown. There is usually an interval between the celebration and the registration of a marriage. As a result of the delay in registration some marriages celebrated in one year are not registered until the following year.




8 In 1984, there were abnormal delays in the registration of New South Wales marriages. These and subsequent delays in 1985 had been made up by 1986. The number of actual registrations and registrations adjusted for these delays and their effects on crude marriage rates for New South Wales and Australia are given in the following table.

Actual crude
Adjusted number
Adjusted crude
marriage rates
of registrations
marriage rates

New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales


9 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 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 The Family Court of Australia introduced new divorce application forms 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 the 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


13 The divorce statistics shown in this publication relate to calendar years and are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by Family Court Registries. Since September 2000 Family Court Registries have supplied data for both the Family Court of Australia and the newly formed Federal Magistrates Service in respect of each application which resulted in a decree absolute being granted. The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Service are independent courts of justice that have concurrent jurisdiction in some areas of Federal Law, including Family Law. Data for finalised divorces are provided monthly, on tapes, to the ABS. Due to the opening of the Federal Magistrates Service and the transfer of cases that has occurred between the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Service 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 Family Court of Australia that the numbers are statistically insignificant (about 0.02%).

14 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.




State or territory of usual residence

15 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.

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 tables 3.17, 3.18 and 3.19 of this publication relates to state or territory of registration which is based on the location of the Family 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.


18 This publication contains preliminary estimates of the resident population of Australia by marital status, age and sex at 30 June 2000, based on the 1996 Census of Population and Housing. These estimates are preliminary and will be revised when more accurate data for deaths, marriages, divorces and category jumping by marital status become available.

19 The ERP is the official population estimates series compiled according to the place of usual residence of the population.

20 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.

Method of estimation

21 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 underenumeration and the number of Australian residents estimated to have been temporarily overseas at the time of the Census.

22 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.

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

24 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 Australian or New Zealand citizens. Marital status estimates for New Zealand arrivals and departures are therefore based on the pre July 1998 experience.

Reliability of estimates

25 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 estimates in this publication, with the exception of marital status estimates, are preliminary for 2001, revised for 1997 to 2000 and final for years prior to 1997. The marital status estimates are preliminary for 2000, revised for 1997 to 1999 and final for years prior to 1997.

26 Single year age estimates are not shown for persons aged 85 years or older. Estimates for each age up to 99 have, however, been calculated and are available on request.


Reliability of estimates

27 Statistics are shown in units without being rounded. However, accuracy down to the last unit is not claimed and should not be assumed. This is particularly the case for single year of age data.

States and territories

28 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

29 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

30 For Marriage and Divorce data, cells with small values have been randomised to protect confidentiality.

Related products

31 Other ABS products which may be of interest are:
  • 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
  • Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) 1996, cat. no. 1266.0
  • 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
  • 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

32 A compendium of demographic data for each state and territory is released annually in state and territory specific publications, Demography (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.

33 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products, Australia (cat. no. 1101.0). The Catalogue is available from any ABS office or the ABS web site. 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

34 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, 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.