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Marriage and divorce statistics Australia

Quick marriage and divorce statistics

  • In 2017 there were 112,954 marriages
  • In 2017 there were 40,032 divorces in Australia
  • The number of divorces is 2 per 1000 people
  • The divorce rate has increased by 5.2% from 2016 to 2017
  • The average marriage lasts for 12 years in Australia
  • The most common age for getting a divorce is 45.5 for males and 42.9 for females

Divorce rate in Australia

As of 2017, the divorce rate in Australia is 2 divorces per 1,000 people [1]. Since the introduction of no fault divorce under the Family Law Act in 1975, the crude number of divorces per 1000 residents has dropped from 4.6 divorces to just 2 in 2017. In 1976, there were 63,230 recorded divorces in Australia out of a population of 14 million people. In 2017, the population increased to 24.6 million people, but the number of divorces dropped to 49,032.

There are several contributing factors to the decreasing divorce rate in Australia [2]:

  • Less people are getting married to start with
  • More couples are cohabiting before marriage
  • The average marriage age has increased

Less married couples

In 1970, the crude marriage rate in Australia was 9.6 marriages per 1,000 residents. In 2017, the crude marriage rate has dropped to 4.6 marriages per 1000 residents [1]. These days, there is less social stigma around single parenting and couples cohabiting outside of marriage. This means there is less pressure from families and society for forced or rushed marriages between potentially incompatible couples who have a higher risk of divorcing.

Cohabitation before marriage

More couples are now living together before committing to marriage and are living together for longer periods of time. Many people see cohabitation as a precursor to marriage, and a means of testing their relationship before committing to marriage. The number of couples living together has increased from 16% of couples in 1976 to 80.8% in 2016.

Average marriage age in Australia

The average lifespan in Australia has increased from 70.2 years in 1960 to 82.5 years in 2016. As a result, the average marriage age for Australian women has also increased from 21 years in 1976 to 30.1 years in 2017, while the average marriage age for Australian men has increased from 23 years in 1976 to 32 years in 2017 [1].

Evidently, people are taking longer to get married and have children. People might also feel less pressure to get married quickly and are spending more time selecting the right partner for marriage.

Male marriage statistics (per 1000 residents)

Male marriage statistics Australia

Female marriage statistics (per 1000 residents)

Female marriage statistics Australia

For both men and women, the most common marriage age was 25-29 in 2006 and 2016. Notably, the number of men and women who got married aged 20-24 decreased significantly from 2006 to 2016, demonstrating that people now prefer to get married later in life. This trend was also evident in the 25-29 age bracket. The only marriage rate that increased over this ten year period was for women aged 40-44. All other marriage rates decreased between 2006 and 2016.

Male divorce statistics (per 1000 residents)

Male divorce statistics Australia

Female divorce statistics (per 1000 residents)

Female divorce statistics Australia

The most common age bracket for divorce for women in 2006 was 35-39. This increased to 40-44 in 2016. The most common age bracket for men to get divorced was 40-44 in 2006, which increased to 45-49 in 2016. This increase in age indicates that the average age of divorce increased between 2006 and 2016. The only age bracket to increase its crude rate of divorce for both men and women between 2006 and 2016 was the 65 and over age bracket.

Types of marriage

Australia has seen a dramatic change in the type of marriage ceremony performed over the past 100 years. In 1902, over 96% of weddings were performed by religious ministers and there were very few civil servants/celebrants. In 1999, 51% of weddings were conducted by civil servants/celebrants. In 2017, 78% of weddings were conducted by civil servants/celebrants, showing this is currently the preferred type of marriage ceremony by Australians [3].

The change in the type of marriage ceremony corresponds with the decline of religion in Australia. In 2016, 61% of Australians said that religion played no part in their lives, while 48% of Australians said they never attend religious services. The younger a person is, the less likely they are to be religious. 50% of the elderly population reported that religion played an important role in their lives, while only 25% of 15-29 year olds responded the same. Reports also showed that church attendance dropped from 44% in 1950 to 16% in 2016. New South Wales saw the highest proportion of religious wedding ceremonies at 27.7% of all weddings in 2016. The Northern Territory saw the lowest percentage of religious weddings at only 13.8% of all weddings performed in 2016.

Average marriage length

In 2017, the average length of an Australian marriage that ended in divorce was 12.0 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) [4]. This figure has increased steadily since 1993, when the average marriage length was 10.7 years .

Further, the average marriage length to separation in Australia is 8.3 years, meaning there is a disparity between when couples separate and when they actually divorce [4].

Wedding statistics in Australia

According to the annual Australian Wedding Industry Report, in 2018, the average final cost of a wedding in Australia was $31,368. In contrast, the average starting wedding budget is $21,236, while couples believe that their final wedding cost will be $25,540 [5].

Additionally, the average cost of a wedding dress in Australia is $2,552, while the average cost of a wedding venue is $14,512, and the average cost of a wedding photographer is $2,952. Other common wedding expenses include wedding cars (average cost $1,161), videography (average cost $2,692), catering (average cost $9,100), wedding music (average cost $1,578), wedding invitations (average cost $767), and wedding cakes (average cost $508) [5].

Expenses don’t necessarily stop with the wedding, either, with the average honeymoon costing Australian couples $7,603.

The five most popular wedding themes in Australia are: ‘rustic’, ‘classic/traditional’, ‘romantic’, ‘garden/outdoors’, and ‘contemporary & glamorous’.

The most popular day of the week for couples to marry is overwhelmingly Saturday (62% of weddings), while spring is the most popular season (35% of weddings), and March is the most popular month (13% of weddings) [5].

Children of divorce statistics

40,202 children were involved in divorces in 2016, a decrease from 48,396 children in 2006. Less children are involved in divorce each year due to decreasing divorce rates. Additionally, the average number of children per divorce has dropped slightly from 1.9 in 2006 to 1.8 in 2016.

In 1975, 67.6% of all divorces involved children, while in 2016 only 46% of all divorces in Australia involved children [2].

Number of Children  per divorce

Children of divorce statistics Australia

Second marriages

While only 30% of first-time marriages end in divorce, up to 60% of second marriages end in divorce. 72% of marriages in 2016 were between couples who had not been married previously. 16% of marriages were between couples where one partner had been in a previous marriage. 12% of marriages were between couples where both partners had been in previous marriages.

Total- 46,604 divorces

Average length of Marriages
In Australia, the highest number of couples (3,101) get divorced after 4 years of marriage, with the divorce rate increasing from 1.2% after one year of marriage to 6.7% after 4 years of marriage. The rate of divorces per length of marriage steadily decreases after 4 years, dropping to 1.2% after 29 years of marriage.

Australian marriage and divorce statistics by state

Marriages vs divorces by state

New South Wales

The crude marriage rate in New South Wales was 5.1 per 1000 people. 76.6% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 1.7 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 11.2 years. 44.8% of divorces in New South Wales involved children. 16.8% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners.

Victoria

The crude marriage rate in Victoria was 5.1 per 1000 people. 79.6% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 1.8 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 11.8 years. 46.1% of divorces in Victoria involved children. 15.7% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners, which was the lowest percentage in Australia.

Queensland

The crude marriage rate in Queensland was 4.7 per 1000 people. 86% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 2.2 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 12.4 years. 49.4% of divorces in Queensland involved children. 19.9% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners, which was the highest percentage in Australia.

South Australia

The crude marriage rate in South Australia was 4.9 per 1000 people. 83.8% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 1.8 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 12.3 years. 48% of divorces in South Australia involved children. 17.9% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners.

Western Australia

The crude marriage rate in Western Australia was 4.7 per 1000 people. 84.3% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 2.1 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 12.3 years. 48.3% of divorces in Western Australia involved children. 17.5% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners.

Tasmania

The crude marriage rate in Tasmania was 4.8 per 1000 people. 87.8% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 2 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 14.1 years. 45.6% of divorces in Tasmania involved children. 19.8% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners.

Northern Territory

The crude marriage rate in the Northern Territory was 3.2 per 1000 people. 81.2% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The crude divorce rate was 1.3 per 1000 people. The median length to divorce was 11 years. 47.1% of divorces in the Northern Territory involved children. 19.4% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners. The Northern Territory was the only state or territory where there were more males applied for divorce than females in 2016, with 90 males filing for divorce compared to 78 females.

ACT

The crude marriage rate in the ACT was 3 per 1000 people. 83.2% of married couples reported they had lived together before marriage. The median length to divorce was 13.5 years. 47.4% of divorces in the ACT involved children. 16.5% of the total marriages that took place in 2016 were classified as second marriages for one or both partners.

Australia vs the world

  • In the United Kingdom in 2016 there were 106,959 divorces, 8.9 divorces per 1000 people, which was an increase of 5.8% from 2015 [6]
  • In the United States of America in 2016 there were 827,261 divorces, 16.9 divorces per 1000 people, which was an increase of 3.2% from 2015 [7]
  • In China in 2015 there were 3.84 million divorces, 2.8 divorces per 1000 people, which was an increase of 5.9% from 2014 [8]
  • In New Zealand in 2016 there were 8,169 divorces, 8.7 divorces per 1000 people, which was a decrease of 4.2% from 2015 [9]
  • In Norway in 2017 there were 9,848 divorces, 1.9 divorces per 1000 people, which was an increase of 5.1% from 2016 [10]

The history of divorce

The introduction of the English Divorce Act in 1857 was brought across to the Australian colonies in the same year. The Act made divorce easier for men than for women, giving men the option to file for divorce after one act of adultery on the woman’s behalf, whereas women could only file for divorce if the man’s adultery was combined with another offense such as cruelty, desertion, or bigamy. No fault divorce became legal in Australia in 1975 with the Family Law Act, which decreed couples only needed to prove an irreconcilable breakdown of their marriage. The rate of divorce increased dramatically after the law passed. In 1970, the crude divorce rate was 1 divorce per 1000 residents. After the Family Law Act passed in 1975, the crude divorce rate jumped to 4.6 divorces per 1000 residents in 1976. The rate has steadily decreased from that year to now, sitting at 2 divorces per 1000 residents in 2017.

[1] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3310.0
[2] https://www.cmlaw.com.au/blog/post/australian-statistics-divorce/

[3] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-07/civil-celebrants-do-it-for-love-not-money/10963536

[4] https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/marriage-in-australia-is-changing-but-still-going-strong-20181207-p50kw3.html

[5] https://www.easyweddings.com.au/business/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2018/04/Easy-Weddings-2018-Survey.pdf
[6]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/bulletins/divorcesinenglandandwales/2016

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm
[8] http://m.chinadaily.com.cn/en/2016-07/12/content_26055052.htm
[9] http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/people_and_communities/marriages-civil-unions-and-divorces/MarriagesCivilUnionsandDivorces_HOTPYeDec16/Commentary.aspx
[10] https://www.ssb.no/en/ekteskap/

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