This publication contains statistics on marriages that were registered, and divorces that were granted, in Australia.
For 2008 onwards, data for marriages and divorces have been published in Marriages and Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3310.0). Statistics on marriages for 2003-2007 were published in Marriages, Australia (cat. no. 3306.0.55.001), and divorce statistics for 2002-2007 were published in Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3307.0.55.001). Prior to this, data were published in the combined Marriages and Divorces, Australia publication (cat. no. 3310.0).
Marriages and divorces legislation
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.
The minimum age at which persons are legally free to marry is 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.
Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came into effect on 9 December 2017 enabling same-sex couples to legally marry in Australia. The right to marry under Australian law is no longer determined by sex or gender and the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) form has been updated to reflect these changes. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has worked in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department and the state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages to collect and publish statistics on the sex of marrying parties from the date of this legislative change. The ABS has also obtained a count of same-sex divorces for 2018 from the Family Court of Australia (FCA). This publication contains the first full calendar year of same-sex marriages and divorces data.
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 couple 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.
Successful applicants for a divorce under Family Law in Australia are initially granted a decree nisi, which is a court order stating the date a marriage will end unless good reason is produced not to grant the divorce. 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.
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.
Divorce statistics are compiled by the ABS from information supplied by the Family Court of Australia (FCA). The FCA provides combined data from each Court Registry as well as the Federal Magistrates Court, the Family Court of Western Australia and the FCA. Since 2005, the FCA has provided data to the ABS in aggregated format.
Scope and coverage
Scope of marriage statistics
The scope of the collection is all marriages registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in each Australian state and territory.
The scope of marriages for each reference year includes:
- marriages registered in the calendar year and received by the ABS in the calendar year or by the end of January of the following year; and
- marriages registered in the years prior to the calendar year but not received by the ABS until the calendar year or by the end of January of the following year, provided that these marriages have not been included in any statistics from an earlier period.
Marriages registered on Norfolk Island since 1 July 2016 are included in this publication. This is due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Norfolk Island registered marriages are included in statistics for New South Wales and in Australian national totals. Marriages registered on Norfolk Island prior to 1 July 2016 were not in scope for Australian marriage statistics.
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
Coverage of marriage statistics in Australia is considered complete as all marriages that take place in Australia are recorded as legal events.
Ideally, for compiling annual time series, the number of marriages should be recorded and reported as those which occurred within a given reference period, such as a calendar year. However, there can be delays in the registration of marriages with the state or territory registries and so not all marriages are registered in the year that they occur. There may also be further delays to the ABS receiving notification of the marriage from the registries due to processing or data transfer lags. Therefore, every marriage record will have a date on which:
- the marriage is celebrated (the date of occurrence);
- the marriage is registered with the state and territory registry (date of registration); and
- the registered marriage is lodged with the ABS and deemed in scope.
With the exception of the statistics published by Year of Occurrence, all marriages referred to in this publication are based on the number of marriages registered, not those which actually occurred, in the years shown. Data in this publication are presented by date of registration unless otherwise stated.
Scope and coverage of divorce statistics
The scope of the collection is all divorces granted (decree made absolute) in Australia.
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 divorces 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. A small proportion of divorces are granted several years after application. Divorce statistics presented in this publication relate to divorces granted in a calendar year.
A range of socio-demographic data is available from the marriages and divorces collection. Data items in this publication are based on standard ABS classifications. For some data items, small modifications have been made to these classifications to better align with how the data has been captured at the administrative source, and to enhance the value of the information collected. The classifications used, and any modifications, are detailed below.
Previous marital status
Data on previous marital status within this publication relate to registered marital status. For marriages data, previous marital status includes 'never married', 'widowed' and 'divorced', and excludes those 'separated' and 'married' (as persons who are not legally divorced cannot legally marry in Australia and are therefore out of scope). For further information about Registered Marital Status refer to Family, Household and Income Unit Variables (cat. no. 1286.0).
In this publication, the Australian Statistical Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) is used to determine the type of marriage celebrant administering the wedding ceremony - whether a minister of religion or a civil celebrant. Small amendments have been made to the ASCRG when processing marriages, in order to capture civil marriages for the marriage celebrant data item. The Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups, 2016 (cat. no. 1266.0) was released in July 2016 and was used for classifying marriage rites for 2017 and 2018. Marriage rites from 2006 to 2016 were originally classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2005 (cat. no. 1266.0). A concordance has been created between the 2005 and 2016 classification codes to ensure continuity of time series. From 1996 to the 2005 collection, marriage rites were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 1996 (cat. no. 1266.0). Prior to 1996, marriage rites were coded according to a non-standard classification developed within the ABS.
Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came into effect on 9 December 2017 enabling same-sex couples to legally marry in Australia. There are now three options for sex on the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM): ‘Male’, ‘Female’ and ‘X’ (where 'X' refers to indeterminate, intersex or unspecified). Registered marriages for which both partners identified as female are referred to in ABS marriages statistics as female same-sex marriages, and marriages for which both partners identified as male are described as male same-sex marriages. Registered marriages where one or both persons have not identified as either male or female are not included in counts of same-sex marriages or data presented by sex, and can not be tabulated separately for confidentiality reasons. These marriages are included in counts of total registered marriages.
Country of birth
ABS marriage statistics are coded using the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0) when presenting data on country of birth, and relative birthplace. 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.
Considerations when interpreting 2018 and time-series data
Amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 came in to effect on the 9th of December, 2017, enabling same-sex couples to legally marry in Australia. The right to marry under Australian law is no longer determined by sex or gender and the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) form has been updated to reflect these changes. The introduction of same-sex marriage should be considered when comparing 2018 with data for previous years. 2018 is the first full calendar year for which same-sex marriage and divorces data are available. For marriages, same-sex couples represented 5.5% of all marrying couples. Same-sex divorces represented 0.1% of all divorces in Australia in 2018.
Registry systems needed to be updated to enable capture of marriages as same-sex, following amendments to marriage legislation. Not all required updates were immediately able to be applied to systems and/or processes, which has resulted in small differences between the same-sex marriage count recorded by the ABS and those recorded by some registries.
There are a very small number of same-sex marriages included in the published marriage counts for 2017. For confidentiality reasons, these same-sex marriages cannot be identified separately in output. As a result, where data are presented by sex, a very small number of females will appear in data for males, and vice versa for 2017 marriages data.
Options for sex, as recorded on the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM), have been updated following amendments to the Marriage Act. There are now three options: ‘Male’, ‘Female’ and ‘X’ (where 'X' refers to indeterminate, intersex or unspecified). In 2018, there were 69 registered marriages for which one or both parties selected 'X' on the marriage notice. These marriages are included in counts of total registered marriages, but are not included in counts of same-sex marriages. Persons who selected 'X' on the NOIM, are also not presented in data broken down by sex. These data cannot be tabulated separately for confidentiality reasons.
Marriage statistics are based on the state or territory in which the marriages are registered, rather than the state or territory of usual residence of the couple. This needs to be considered when interpreting or comparing state and territory data. People who usually reside in one jurisdiction may choose to marry in a different jurisdiction. Overseas residents who marry while visiting Australia are included in marriage statistics by the state or territory in which their marriage is registered. 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. Norfolk Island registered marriages are included in statistics for New South Wales. All data for Other Territories are included in Australia totals.
There are a range of administrative factors that can affect the processing of marriage registrations in a given year. These factors are often jurisdiction specific and can impact on the timeliness of marriages being registered and delay provision of data to the ABS. In recent years, several jurisdictional Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages have undertaken large-scale digitisation and system redevelopment works which have impacted the processing of registrations.
Divorce applications 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 divorce hearing may occur in a state or territory other than the one in which the applicant/s usually reside. 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 ACT are not representative and are not presented in this publication.
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. Divorces registered on Norfolk Island are also included in statistics for New South Wales.
There are 72 same-sex divorces included in the published divorce counts for 2018 (22 divorces of male same-sex couples, and 50 of female same-sex couples). Apart from total figures, it is not currently possible to identify couples as same-sex in the source data as they are supplied to the ABS. As a result, where data are presented by sex, a very small number of females will appear in data for males, and vice versa.
To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique called perturbation is applied. Perturbation involves small random adjustment of the statistics and is applied to cell values, including totals. This is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics.
As a result of perturbation, components will not necessarily sum to the published total. As such, proportions may add to more or less than 100%. Where a proportion in any given cell is more than 100%, data appears as 'np' (not publishable). Readers are advised to use the published totals rather than deriving totals based on the component cells. Following the introduction of same-sex marriages, the perturbation method that has been applied may result in cell values differing slightly across tables.
Perturbation has been applied to 2014 marriages data onwards, as well as to historical marriages data back to 2005 in this publication. Historical data may therefore differ to that originally published. In this publication, data prior to 2005 appear as first published, using the confidentialisation methods outlined below.
Different methods of confidentialising data have been used over time. When confidentialising data as first published for 2004 to 2013, small cells were suppressed (and consequential suppression was applied) to protect confidentiality. Prior to this, small cells were randomised to avoid the disclosure of potentially identifiable information.
Since 2005, all divorce processing has been completed by the Family Court of Australia rather than the ABS. Divorce data are provided to the ABS in aggregate format. Perturbation is not applied to divorces data. To ensure confidentiality, cells with small values are suppressed, and are presented in tables as 'np' or not publishable data. Where a cell has been suppressed, the corresponding rate is also not published.
Rates and rounding
Use of rates
Both crude and age-specific marriage and divorce rates are presented in this publication. Crude marriage and divorce rates reflect the number of people who marry or divorce within a specified reference year per 1,000 estimated resident population, as at 30 June of that year. Similarly, age-specific marriage and divorce rates reflect the number of people in a particular age group who marry or divorce within a specified reference year, per 1,000 estimated resident population in the same age group (as at 30 June).
When calculating age-specific divorce rates, there are a small number of persons aged under 16 years included in divorces data who were legally married overseas. Owing to the small numbers involved, these divorced persons are included in the 16-24 year age group when calculating rates, and the corresponding population denominator includes those aged 16-24 years.
For divorces, age-specific divorce rates are additionally presented per 1,000 married population, to offer a more accurate representation of divorce rates, as they provide an indication of the proportion of married people of a certain age who are granted divorce in a specific year. These data are 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.
In this publication, crude and age-specific marriage and divorce rates have been calculated using preliminary Estimated Resident Population (ERP) figures as at 30 June for the relevant year. Care should be taken when interpreting marriage and divorce rates by jurisdiction, as these counts are based on the state or territory in which the marriage or divorce was registered, rather than the jurisdiction of usual residence. ERP is based on the jurisdiction of usual residence.
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 ACT are not representative and are not presented in this publication.
Effects of rounding
Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between totals and sums of the component items.