3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2008 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/08/2009   
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1 This publication contains statistics on marriages and divorces granted in Australia.

2 Statistics on marriages and divorces for 2003-2007 were published in separate publications; Marriages (ABS cat.no. 3306.0.55.001) and Divorces (ABS cat.no. 3307.0.55.001).

3 The Marriage Act 1961 came into full operation on 1 September 1961. 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 within 18 months of the marriage, but no later than one month and one day prior to it. Under certain circumstances, however, this time can be shortened. A celebrant must lodge an official certificate of the marriage for registration to a district registrar in the state or territory in which the marriage took place within 14 days.

4 From 20 June 1973, the minimum age at which a person may marry without parental consent was reduced from 21 years 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 years 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.

5 Under the Family Law Act 1975, 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.

6 Successful applicants for a divorce under Family Law 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 This becomes absolute after one month unless it is rescinded, appealed against, or the Court has not declared its satisfaction that proper arrangements having been made for the welfare of children involved.

7 At the time of the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975, 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.


Scope of Marriage Statistics

8 The ABS marriages statistics collection includes all marriages which occurred and were registered in Australia. Marriages of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in marriages statistics.

9 The scope of the statistics;

  • includes all marriages being registered for the first time.
  • includes marriages in Australia of temporary visitors to Australia.
  • includes marriages that occurred in earlier reference periods that have not been previously registered (late registrations)
  • excludes marriages of Australians which occur overseas

Coverage of Marriage Statistics

10 Coverage of marriage statistics in Australia is considered complete as all marriages are recorded as legal events.

11 Ideally, for compiling annual time series, the number of events (marriages) should be recorded and reported as those occurring within a given reference period such as a calendar year. However, due to lags in registration of events and the provision of that information to the ABS, this ideal is unlikely to be met under the current legislation and registration business processes. Therefore, the occurrence event is approximated by addition of the event on a state/territory register of marriages. Also, some additions to the register can be delayed in being received by the ABS from the Registrar (processing or data transfer lags). In effect there are 3 dates attributable to each marriage registration:
  • The date of occurrence (of the marriage),
  • The date of registration or inclusion on the State/Territory register,
  • The month in which the registered event is lodged with the ABS.

12 As a result of the delay in registration, some marriages celebrated in one year are not registered until the following year. Of the marriages registered in 2008, 5,275 were celebrated in 2007. In addition to this, there were 230 marriages that occurred prior to 2007 but were registered in 2008. These registrations were received by the ABS in 2008 and had not previously been included in marriage statistics. Subsequently they have been included in the 2008 data.

Scope and Coverage of Divorce Statistics

13 The ABS divorce statistics collection includes all divorces granted by the Family Court of Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia, or the Federal Magistrates Court in Australia for the reference year. Divorce applications are usually dealt with by a registrar or magistrate and are usually dealt with relatively quickly (within 12 weeks of parties applying for a divorce). However, around 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year are granted in the following year.


Socio-Demographic Classifications

14 A range of socio-demographic data is available from the marriages and divorces collection. Standard classifications used in the presentation of marriages and divorces statistics include age, sex, and birthplace. Additional standard classifications used in the presentation of marriages statistics include previous marital status and children of to previous marriages. Statistical standards for social and demographic variables have been developed by the ABS.

Marital Status

15 Within ABS marriage statistics previous marital status relates only to registered marital status, that is formally registered marriages or divorces for which the partners hold a certificate.

16 For further information about Marital Status refer to Family, Household and Income Unit Variables, 2005 (cat.no. 1286.0).

Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG)

17 The Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2005 was released in December 2005 and was used for classifying marriage rites from 2006 onwards. In the 2005 collection, marriage rites were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 1996. Prior to this, marriage rites were coded according to a non-standard classification developed within the ABS.

18 For further information about Marital Status refer to Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2005 (cat. no. 1266.0)

Geographic Classifications

Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC)

19 The ASGC is a hierarchical classification system consisting of six interrelated classification structures. The ASGC provides a common framework of statistical geography and thereby enables the production of statistics which are comparable and can be spatially integrated. These provide marriage statistics with a ‘where’ dimension.

20 For further information about the ASGC refer to Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), Jul 2008(cat. no. 1216.0)

Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)

21 The SACC groups neighbouring countries into progressively broader geographic areas on the basis of their similarity in terms of social, cultural, economic and political characteristics.

22 Birthplaces within Australia are coded to the state/territory level where possible. The supplementary codes contain the relevant state and territory 4-digit codes.

23 For further information about the SACC refer to Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 1998 (Revision 2.03) (cat.no. 1269.0)

Main English-speaking Countries (MESC)

24 This refers to the main countries from which Australia receives, or has received, significant numbers of overseas settlers who are likely to speak English. These countries comprise the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and the United States of America. All other countries are classified as Non Main English-speaking countries (NMESC).



25 The registration of marriages is the responsibility of the individual state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This information is provided to the ABS by individual Registrars for coding and compilation into aggregate statistics shown in this publication.


26 The divorce statistics shown in this publication relate to divorces 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 the registries of the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC), the Family Court of Western Australia (FCWA) and the FCA.

27 In addition, legislative changes and the expectation of new legislation, rules and practices may affect the number of applications. In the 2005-06 budget, the Australian government allocated $397.2 million over four years to support a range of reforms to the law and the family law system. A major tenet of this reform is to prevent separation and so it would be expected to impact on numbers of divorces granted.

Changes in provision and processing of divorces data

28 The FCA provide 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.

29 Since 2005, all divorce processing has been 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 (e.g. total of Oceania and Antarctica, total North-West Europe, etc.).



30 Marriage statistics are based upon the state in which the marriages are registered, rather than the state of usual residence of the applicants. This needs to be considered when interpreting state and territory data, particularly when comparing states/territories. People who usually reside in one jurisdiction may choose to marry in a different jurisdiction. Overseas residents who marry while visiting Australia are also included in marriages statistics by the state/territory in which their marriage is registered. Furthermore, marriages that occur in the other Australian territories of Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Jervis Bay Territory are registered in the nearest state or territory where the marriage occurs.

31 These factors mean that figures published here may not accurately reflect the marriages of the state/territory population and care should be taken in interpreting state/territory data.


32 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.

33 Data for subsequent years are only available based on the location of the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court where divorce is granted and registered.

34 This is not considered a reliable proxy for usual residence because some Family Courts have responsibility for hearing divorce cases relating to residents of other states or territories. For example, courts in the Australian Capital Territory hear cases from much of south-eastern New South Wales and parts of Victoria due to the proximity of the court for residents of this area. 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 reliable and so are not produced in this publication.

35 Similarly, divorces of persons usually resident in Other Territories are registered in the nearest state or territory. For example, divorces of residents of Jervis Bay would generally be registered in New South Wales.

36 Prior to 2002, the Brisbane Family Court heard divorce cases from areas in Northern New South Wales. 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.

37 For Western Australia, there was an increase in the number of divorces in 2005 which was 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 and 2006 is considered more typical for Western Australia. The national trend has been a slight decrease in the number of divorces since 2001 and Western Australian figures are in line with this.


Use of Rates

38 There are two different rates of marriage and divorce presented in this publication: crude marriage and divorce rates and age-specific marriage and divorce rates.

Crude marriage and divorce rates

39 Crude marriage and divorce rates provide a summary indicator which compares the number of people who marry or divorce within a year to the total estimated resident population as at 30 June of that year. This provides a rough indicator of change over time in the number of marriages and divorces within the population.

Age-specific marriage and divorce rates

40 Age-specific marriage and divorce rates give an indication of the proportion of males or females in a particular age group of a population registering their marriage or who are granted divorce in a given year. There are two types of age-specific divorce rates presented in this publication.

41 Age-specific marriage and divorce rates per 1,000 population give the proportion of total estimated resident population for a given age-group who are married or divorced in a specific year. This gives a rough indication of number of males or females of a certain age who register their marriage or who are granted divorce, controlling for changes in the age distribution of the population. In calculating these rates, people aged under 16 years are excluded from the population as they are not legally eligible to marry in Australia and it is extremely unlikely that they would be eligible for divorce. For age-specific marriage rates prior to 2007, only people aged under 15 years are excluded.

42 Age-specific divorce rates per 1,000 married population gives a more accurate representation of divorce rates as it provides an indication of the proportion of married people of a certain age and sex who are granted divorce in a specific year. This data is only produced for years in which the Census of Population and Housing is conducted, as marital status of the Australian population is only available from the Census. In the Census, all people aged under 15 years are assumed not to be married. Consequently, these people are excluded from the married population.

Suppression of small cells

43 Up to and including 2003, randomisation was used to protect confidentiality of cells with small values in this publication. From 2004 onwards, small cells have been suppressed to avoid the disclosure of potentially identifiable information. Therefore, 2003 and 2004 data with small values cannot be compared. However, it is valid to make comparisons between years up to 2003 and between years 2004 to 2008.

Estimated Resident Population (ERP)

44 Estimates of Australia's population by age at the date of the census are derived from the Census of Population and Housing by adjusting census counts for under-enumeration and adding the number of Australian residents estimated to have been temporarily overseas at the time of the census.

45 Post-censal population estimates are obtained by advancing the previous year's estimates to the next year by subtracting deaths and adding births and net estimated interstate and overseas migration. After each census, estimates for the preceding intercensal period are revised by incorporating an additional adjustment (intercensal discrepancy) to ensure that the total intercensal increase at each age agrees with the difference between the estimated resident populations at the two respective census dates.

46 To meet the conflicting demand for accuracy and timeliness there are three estimates of Estimated Resident Population (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 are final for the years prior to 2002; revised for 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; final for 2006; preliminary for 2007; and revised for 2008.

Availability of marriages data items

47 A complete review of data items supplied to the ABS by the state/territory Registrars was conducted in 2005. A range of data items were not collected in 2005 due to issues relating to the quality and completeness of information supplied by marrying couples on the Notice of Intended Marriage form and differing state/territory Registrar practices regarding recording of data items. Data items not available from 2005 onwards include:
  • birthplace of bride/groom father
  • birthplace of bride/groom mother
  • number of marriages of bride/groom
  • first marriage date of bride/groom
  • number of previous marriages bride/groom

48 The data item "number of children of previous marriages" was not published in 2006 due to issues relating to the quality of the data. This data item was available for 2007 for selected states. It is not available for 2008.

49 Duration of Residence (years and months) data has not been available for certain states and territories, nor at a national level from 2005. Some state/territory Registrars were not able to supply information for these data items. Duration of Residence (years and months) is not available for New South Wales, South Australia and Australian Capital Territory. Duration of Residence data was not published for the remaining states and territories in 2007 due to issues relating to the quality of the data. Caution should be used in analysing Duration of Residence data for 2005 and 2006 for Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory. Duration of residence data has not been published for 2008.

50 When analysing time series data in this publication, it is important to note that in 2004, marriage registrations were sampled for the larger states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, while the other states and territories were fully enumerated. Sampled forms were subject to full processing. For an explanation and calculation of the sampling error see Marriages Australia, 2004, Technical Notes (under Explanatory Notes). Full processing then resumed for 2005.

Change to minimum age in calculating age-specific marriage and divorce rates

51 Prior to 2007 reference year, age-specific marriage rates for people aged under 19 years excluded all people aged under 15 years as they were unlikely to marry. From 2007 onwards, the method for calculating these rates was amended so that only those people aged 16 years and over, and therefore eligible to marry according to the Marriages Act 1961, are included.

52 From 2006, a change was made to the way in which age-specific divorce rates for the total population were calculated. Prior to 2006, females aged under 16 years and males aged under 18 years were excluded from the population on the basis that it was unlikely they would be married, and therefore eligible for divorce. The distinction between male and female age limits is no longer relevant as minimum age requirements for a person to be married are the same for males and females, as legislated in the Marriages Act 1961.


53 For 2008, an expanded set of tables is available on marriages of people born outside of Australia. This presents data on marriages of people born in Main English-speaking countries (MESC) and other countries (NMESC), as well as data on males and females born overseas.

54 The data item "number of children of previous marriages" has not been published in 2008 due to issues relating to the quality of the data. The Notice of Intended Marriage form only collects the number of children from previous registered marriages and therefore excludes children born out of wedlock. This represents significant under-reporting of the number of children affected by marriage.

55 Duration of Residence (years and months) data for marriage statistics has not been available for certain states and territories, nor at a national level from 2005. Duration of residence data has not been published for any sate or territory for 2008 due to issues relating to the quality of the data.


56 Under the Census and Statistics Act 1901, the ABS is unable to release data which may identify individual contributors. For marriage data, cells with smaller values have been randomised to protect confidentiality. In the past different methods of confidentialising data have been used. When analysing time series data caution should always be used when comparing smaller values.


57 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between totals and sums of the component items.


58 This publication draws extensively on information provided freely by the state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Family Court of Australia. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available.


59 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 1994 onwards are available free of charge on the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au>.
60 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).

61 ABS products and publications are available free of charge from the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au>. Click on Statistics to gain access to the full range of ABS statistical and reference information. For details on products scheduled for release in the coming week, click on the Future Releases link on the ABS homepage.


62 As well as the statistics included in this and related products, additional information is available from the ABS website at <https://www.abs.gov.au> by accessing the topics listed at Themes>People. The ABS may also 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.