3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2010 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/11/2011   
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1 This publication contains statistics on marriages that were registered and divorces that were granted in Australia in 2010.

2 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.

3 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 1961 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.

4 Under the Family Law Act 1975, the irretrievable breakdown of marriage is the only basis 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 is already lawfully married to another person. There is no provision for judicial separation under Family Law legislation.

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 This becomes absolute after one month unless it is rescinded, appealed against, or the Court has not declared its satisfaction that proper arrangements have been made for the welfare of children involved.

6 The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publication Divorces, Australia, 1976 (cat. no. 3307.0) differentiated between those cases in which a divorce was granted under the former Matrimonial Causes legislation and those cases in which a divorce was granted under the Family Law Act 1975. Such differentiation is not made for subsequent years.

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


Scope of Marriage Statistics

8 The scope of the collection is all marriages registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each Australian state and territory for the current 2010 reference period (calendar year).

9 Marriages of overseas residents visiting Australia are included in these statistics. Marriages of Australian residents that take place overseas are not included in these statistics.

Coverage of Marriage Statistics

10 Coverage of marriage statistics in Australia is considered complete as all marriages are recorded as legal events. However, there is usually an interval between the celebration and the registration of a marriage. The ABS advises that 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 2010, 3,316 were celebrated in 2009.

11 In addition to this, the ABS also advises that there were 121 marriages that occurred prior to 2009 but were registered in the 2010 processing year. These registrations were received as part of the 2010 files and not previously included in marriage statistics. Subsequently they have been included in the 2010 collection.

Scope of Divorce Statistics

12 The scope of the collection is all divorces granted (decree made absolute) in Australia for the current calendar year.

Coverage of Divorce Statistics

13 Coverage of divorce statistics in Australia is considered complete as all divorces granted are recorded legal decisions. In the interpretation of data it is important to bear in mind that the availability of judges and the complexity of the cases brought before them can affect the number of decrees made absolute or granted in any one year. A rise in numbers in one year may be due wholly or in part to the clearing of a backlog of cases from an earlier period. Generally, approximately 25% of divorces applied for in a particular year will not be granted until the following year. A small proportion of divorces are granted several years after application. Specific information about the lag between application for and the granting of divorce is no longer provided by the Family Court of Australia (FCA).


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 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 (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) (cat. no. 1266.0)



19 The registration of marriages is the responsibility of 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.


20 The divorce statistics shown in this publication relate to divorces granted in the 2010 calendar year. The statistics are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by the Family Court of Australia (FCA). The FCA provides combined data from the registries of the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC), the Family Court of Western Australia (FCWA) and the FCA.

21 The ABS advises the legislative changes and the expectation of new legislation, rules and practices may affect the number of divorce 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 was to prevent separation. This could have some impact on numbers of divorces granted.

Changes in provision and processing of divorces data

22 The FCA provides the ABS with electronic files, containing divorce data from each Court Registry as well as the FMC and the FCWA.

23 Since 2005, all divorce processing has been completed by the FCA rather than the ABS. The ABS advises that under these 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.).



24 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 to where the marriage occurs.

25 The ABS advises that 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 or territory data as well as country of birth data.


26 The ABS considers that details of divorce on a state or territory of usual residence at separation basis is 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.

27 The ABS advises that 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.

28 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.

29 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.

30 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.

31 The ABS also advises that administrative lags may impact on data. For example, in 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 more timely 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

32 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

33 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 an indicator of change over time in the number of marriages and divorces within the population.

Age-specific marriage and divorce rates

34 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.

35 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 an 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.

36 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 and confidentialisation

37 Under the Census and Statistics Act 1901, the ABS is unable to release data which may identify individual contributors. For marriage data, cells with small values have been randomised to protect confidentiality. The ABS advises that in the past, different methods of confidentialising data may have been used.

38 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 and 2010.

Estimated Resident Population (ERP)

39 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.

40 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 inter-censal period are revised by incorporating an additional adjustment (inter-censal discrepancy) to ensure that the total inter-censal increase at each age agrees with the difference between the estimated resident populations at the two respective census dates.

41 To meet the conflicting demand for accuracy and timeliness there are three estimates of Estimated Resident Population (ERP). Estimates up to 2006 are final, based on the results of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. Estimates for June 2007 have been revised and estimates from June 2008 onwards are preliminary.

Availability of marriages data items

42 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 resumed for 2005.

43 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.

44 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 from 2008 on.

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

45 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 Marriage Act 1961, are included. In this publication, age-specific marriage rates for people aged under 19 years for all the reference years have been calculated to include persons aged between 16 and 19 years of age in the denominator.

46 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 Marriage Act 1961. In this publication, age-specific divorce rates for people aged under 25 years for all the reference years have been calculated to include persons aged between 16 and 24 years of age in the denominator.

Geographic Classifications

Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC)

47 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.

48 For further information about the ASGC refer to Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) (cat. no. 1216.0)

Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC)

49 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.

50 Birthplaces within Australia are coded to the State/Territory level where possible. The supplementary codes contain the relevant State and Territory 4-digit codes.

51 For further information about the SACC refer to Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (cat. no. 1269.0)

Main English-speaking Countries (MESC)

52 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).


53 The data item "number of children of previous marriages" has not been published in 2009 due to data quality issues. 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.

54 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 State or Territory for 2010 due data quality issues.

55 The Family Law Court introduced the eFiling system in September 2009 whereby a divorce application can be electronically submitted from anywhere in the world. The divorce hearings are conducted at selected locations/cities, and parties do not need to attend the divorce hearing; however, they must provide the necessary documentation and evidence before a divorce is granted. The Family Court of Australia advises that it is unlikely that the increase in divorce statistics in 2009 has resulted from use of the eFiling system and that the effect of eFiling is not likely to be seen until the end of 2010. The ABS does not receive details of whether a divorce has been processed through the eFiling system.


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


57 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 greatly appreciated: without it, the statistics in this publication would not be available.


58 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>.
59 There are various special articles published by the ABS 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 (cat. no. 3236.0).

60 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 weeks, please click on the Future Releases link on the ABS homepage.


61 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.