3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1998  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2001   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All

Special Article - Marriage and Divorce in Australia (1998)

This article was published in
Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1998 (ABS Catalogue number 3310.0)


The marriage rate in 1998 moved slightly upwards over its level in 1997. Over the last 20 years the trend has been a decline in the marriage rate. It is too early to say whether the 1998 upturn will continue. The crude marriage rate increased from 5.8 marriages per 1,000 population in 1997 to 5.9 per 1,000 in 1998. The marriage rate in Australia is less than that in the United States of America (8.8 per 1,000 in 1996) and above that in Canada and the United Kingdom (both 5.5 per 1,000 in 1995).

In 1998 there were 110,600 marriages registered in Australia, an increase of 3,900 marriages when compared with 1997, but down from 116,800 marriages registered in 1988.


Over the last 20 years the divorce rate has fluctuated, generally showing a slight upwards trend. The rate, 2.8 per 1,000 population in 1978, declined to 2.4 in 1987, rose to 2.9 in 1996, and declined in the following two years to reach 2.7 per 1,000 population in 1998.

In 1998 there were 51,400 divorces granted, up from 41,000 granted in 1988. The divorce rate in Australia is lower than in the United States of America (4.3 in 1996) and about the same as in Canada and the United Kingdom (2.6 and 2.9, respectively, in 1995).


(a) Per 1,000 population.

The 51,400 divorces granted in 1998 occurred from the accumulated stock of all marriages contracted over the years and not from the 110,600 marriages registered in the year. For example, in 1998 there were 8.3 million married persons or about 4.1 million married couples. The 51,400 divorces represent about 12.4 divorces out of every 1,000 married couples.


An increasing proportion of men and women are choosing to marry after their thirtieth birthday. In 1998 the bridegroom was aged 30 years or more in 49% of all marriages, while for brides this proportion was 37%. Twenty years ago the proportions, aged 30 years or more at marriage, were 28% for men and 20% for women.

For men and women marrying for the first time, the proportions waiting until after their thirtieth birthday also increased. In 1998, 34% of men and 21% of women who married for the first time were aged 30 years and over. The comparative proportions for 1978 were 13% and 6%, respectively.


In line with the increase in the age at which men and women marry, the age at which men and women divorce also increased. Over the past ten years the median age at divorce has increased from 37.6 years for men and 34.8 years for women in 1988 to 40.5 years for men and 37.8 years for women in 1998.


The incidence of people cohabiting prior to registered marriage has increased markedly over the past 20 years. Marriage data indicates that 67% of couples marrying in 1998 had cohabited prior to marriage. Comparative data from the 1992 Family Survey showed that only around 22% had lived together prior to marriage in 1978. In 1998 the Northern Territory (80%) and Tasmania (75%) had the highest proportions of people who cohabited prior to marriage, while New South Wales and Victoria had the lowest (both 63%).


Over the past twenty years around one-third of all registered marriages celebrated in Australia involved at least one previously married partner. Remarriages represented 33% of all marriages in 1998 compared with 31% in 1978. Of the marriages registered in 1998, 12% were couples who were both previously divorced, 10% were celebrated by couples in which the bridegroom had previously been divorced and the bride had never previously been married, 8% were couples in which the bridegroom had never previously married and the bride had previously been divorced, and the remaining proportion of remarriages (4%) involved a widowed partner.


Over the last 10 years the proportion of divorces granted which involved children under 18 years of age decreased, down from 57.5% in 1988 to 53.4% in 1998. However, over the same period the actual number of children involved in divorce increased. This occurred because there were 25% more divorces granted in 1998 than were granted 10 years ago. In 1988, 44,400 children aged under 18 years were involved in divorce, by 1998 this number had increased to 51,600 children. Ten years ago 9.7 children per 1,000 children aged under 18 years were involved in divorces granted in that year. By 1998 this proportion had increased to 10.9 per 1,000.

After separation, children of all ages were more likely to live with their mother than their father. ABS Family Characteristics Survey (1997) data showed that 96% of 0-4 years olds, 89% of 5-11 years olds and 82% of 12-17 years olds whose parents had separated were living with their mother.


In 1998 there were 14.8 million people aged 15 years and over in the population, a rise of 16% on 1988-4.6 million were never married (up 22% on 1988), 8.3 million were married (up 9%), 930,000 were widowed (up 13%) and around 1 million were divorced (up 58%).

The 1996 Census of Population and Housing indicated that of the men and women living in couple relationships (7.6 million), 5.3% were in de facto marriages. When this de facto proportion is applied to the 1998 population, aged 15 years and over, it is estimated that around 826,300 people would be in de facto marriages. The majority of people in these de facto marriages would not have been previously married (549,800) while a further 198,800 would have previously been divorced.


Additional analysis and data are available in the ABS publication Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1998 (Cat. no. 3310.0) which was released on 24 August 1999.