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MARRIAGES, DIVORCES AND DE FACTO RELATONSHIPS
There were 118,756 marriages registered in Australia in 2008, resulting in a crude marriage rate of 5.5 marriages per 1,000 population. The highest crude marriage rate recorded was 12.0 marriages per 1,000 population in 1942. Fluctuations in the crude marriage rate between 1958 and 2008 are shown in graph 7.35, which suggest that crude marriage rates in Australia have remained steady over the last few years.
The median age of people married in 2008 was 31.6 years for males and 29.3 years for females. Until recently, median age at marriage was increasing gradually over time for both males and females. Since 2006, the median age for males has remained at 31.6 years. The median age for females has been stable at 29.3 years since 2005. In 2008, the median age of males married for the first time was 29.6 years, and 27.7 years for females. The gradual increase in the age profile of people marrying for the first time is shown in graph 7.36. Part of this increase can be attributed to the increasing incidence of de facto relationships. Another factor is young people staying in education longer.
Marriage data for 2008 reflect a continuation of a 30-year trend of more Australian couples living together prior to registered marriage. In 1975, 16.0% of couples lived together prior to marriage, while 77.7% of couples lived together prior to marriage in 2008. Widowed males who remarried in 2008 were the least likely to have lived together before marriage and divorced males and females were the most likely. Only 58.2% of widowed males and 64.4% of widowed females who remarried in 2008 lived together before marrying their partner, while the proportion of those divorced who lived together prior to remarriage was 80.8% for males and 81.0% for females.
Table 7.37 shows summary measures for marriages between 1998 and 2008.
De facto relationships
Between 2001 and 2006, the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto relationships rose by 25% from 951,500 to 1,193,400. This was marginally lower than the increase between 1996 and 2001 (28%). In 2006, de facto partners represented 15% of all people living as socially married - that is, all those either in a registered marriage or a de facto relationship - up from 12% in 2001 and 10% in 1996. Total de facto partners in 2006 represented 7% of all persons aged 15 years and over, up from 6% in 2001 and 5% in 1996. These rises may be due to both increases in the number of de facto partners and in the willingness of people to identify themselves as living in de facto relationships. In 2006, the median age of males in de facto relationships was 35.3 years while the median age of females was 33.3 years. Graph 7.38 shows the age distribution of male and female partners in de facto relationships in 2006.
De facto partnering has arisen as an alternative living arrangement prior to or instead of marriage, and also following separation, divorce or widowhood. Of all people in de facto relationships in 2006, 70% had never been in a registered marriage and 27% were either separated or divorced. The likelihood of being never married was higher among people aged under 35 years, counterbalanced by higher proportions of separated and divorced de facto partners aged 35 years and over (graph 7.39).
For most of the 20th century, there was a slow but steady rise in the crude divorce rate (the number of divorces in a calendar year per 1,000 population), increasing from 0.1 divorces per 1,000 population for each year between 1901 and 1910 to 0.8 divorces per 1,000 population between 1961 and 1970. The most important factor involved in the higher divorce rates in the latter quarter of the century was the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth) which came into operation on 5 January 1976. This legislation allows only one ground for divorce - irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, measured as the separation of the spouses for at least one year.
Following the implementation of this law, there was a large increase in the divorce rate in 1976. The rate then declined over the next three years as the backlog of applications was cleared. Since then, the crude divorce rate has remained between 2.2 and 2.9 divorces per 1,000 population (graph 7.40). In 2008, the crude divorce rate was 2.2 divorces per 1,000 population.
The median duration of marriage to both separation and divorce has increased since the late 1980s, revealing that marriages are lasting longer on average (graph 7.41). In 2008, the median duration of marriage to separation was 8.8 years compared with 7.8 years in 1998, while the median duration of marriage to divorce was 12.3 years compared with 11.2 years in 1998. The 2008 rates are slightly lower than the peaks around 2005 or 2006.
In 2008, 6.0% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 32.7% within the first 5 years and a further 21.7% were separated within 5 to 9 years of marriage. Of divorcing couples in 2008, 16.8% were married less than 5 years, 24.6% between 5 and 9 years and 58.6% were married for 10 years or more. Around 17.2% of divorces occurred to couples who had been married for 25 years or more.
Table 7.42 shows summary measures for divorces in the period 1998 to 2008.