3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/08/2002   
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August 22, 2002
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Fewer marriages, more divorces - part of a twenty year trend

Over the past 20 years less people are marrying and more are divorcing, with the lowest number of registered marriages recorded last year according to the Marriages and Divorces, Australia report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Less people are choosing to marry: The lowest number of registered marriages over the past twenty years was recorded in Australia in 2001 (103,100). Between 1981 and 2001 the trend has been downward with the highest number of marriages registered in 1982 (117,300). The crude marriage rate in 2001 (5.3 per 1,000 population) was the lowest recorded in Australia since 1901.

Median age at marriage is increasing: The median age at marriage continued to rise for both men and women between 1981 and 2001. For men marrying for the first time the median age increased by four years over the period (up from 24.4 years in 1981 to 28.7 years in 2001). For women the increase in the median age at first marriage was five years (up from 22 years in 1981 to 27 years in 2001). Similarly, increases were recorded for men and women remarrying.

More couples are choosing to cohabit prior to marriage: The proportion of couples choosing to live together prior to formalising their relationship in a registered marriage has more than doubled over the past twenty years. In 1981, 31% of couples cohabited prior to entering a registered marriage. By 2001 this proportion had reached 72%.

Civil celebrants are performing more marriages: Over the past twenty years the proportion of marriages performed by civil celebrants has steadily increased. In 1981, 38% of marriages were performed by civil celebrants. In 2001, civil celebrants performed 53% of all registered marriages.

The number of divorces granted is increasing: With the exception of 1976 (63,200), the year the Family Law Act 1975 was introduced, 2001 saw the highest number of divorces ever granted in Australia (55,300). While the divorce trend between 1981 and 2001 has been upwards, the high number for 2001 may have been contributed to by the introduction of the Federal Magistrates Service in September 2000. In its first full year of operation the Federal Magistrates Service dealt with 51% of all divorces granted in Australia.

Median age at divorce is increasing: Over the past twenty years the median age of men and women at divorce has risen by six years mainly due to the rising age at first marriage. In 2001, the median age at divorce was 42 years for men and 39 years for women.

Further details are in Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 3310.0).