3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1999  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/09/2000   
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September 21, 2000
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Marriages - Couples choose civil celebrants

For the first time in Australia, civil celebrants were the preferred choice for more than half of couples (51 per cent) who married in 1999, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

In contrast, couples in New South Wales and Victoria still preferred ministers of religion (52 per cent and just over 50 per cent, respectively) as their marriage celebrants.

The number of marriages registered in 1999 (114,300) continued an upward trend that began in 1997. The marriage rate in 1999 of 6.0 per 1,000 of the population was higher than in 1998 (5.9) and while lower than in the United States of America (8.8), was comparable with Canada and the United Kingdom (each 5.5).

The median age at marriage continued to rise in 1999 for both first marriages and remarriages. The median age at marriage is the age where there are as many marrying above the age as there are marrying below it. For first time grooms the median age at marriage was 28.2 years, while for first time brides the median age was 26.4 years (up from 26.3 and 24.2 years, respectively, in 1989). The median age of all men marrying exceeded 30 years (30.1 years). For women the median age also increased but was 2.2 years lower than for males.

Likelihood to marry continues to decrease with a lesser proportion of people opting to marry. If the 1995-1997 marriage rates were to continue into the future it is estimated that 28 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women will never marry in their lifetime. The corresponding proportions based on 1985-987 rates were 21 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

The number of divorces granted in 1999 (52,600) exceeded those granted in 1998 (51,400). The divorce rate in 1999 of 2.8 per 1,000 population was higher than that in 1998 (2.7) and while lower than in the United States of America (4.3) was about the same as in Canada and the United Kingdom (2.6 and 2.9, respectively).

As marriages are occurring later in life so are divorces. The median age at divorce rose by 2.9 years for men and 3.1 years for women from 1989 to 40.9 years and 38.2 years, respectively.

If current divorce rates are to prevail into the future it is estimated that 46 per cent of marriages will end in divorce. Age at marriage was found to be an influencing factor, with the highest divorce rates likely to occur for those married aged under 20 years.

De facto marriages have been increasing in Australia. It was estimated that around 862,000 people were living in de facto marriages in 1999.

Based on marriage registrations it is estimated that 69 per cent of couples cohabited prior to entering a registered marriage in 1999, up from estimates of 44 per cent ten years ago and 23 per cent twenty years ago.

Further details are in Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 3310.0) available from ABS Bookshops. The summary of the publication's main features are available at this site. If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication, contact the ABS Bookshop in your capital city.