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3307.0.55.001 - Divorces, Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/02/2005   
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ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION

This electronic product, Divorces, Australia (cat. no. 3307.0.55.001) provides information on divorces granted in Australia. Key indicators of national and state divorces are included in the analytical commentary below. Detailed divorce tables are available for purchase in a data cube. The data cube can be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of this page and following the data cube link for 2003. A glossary of terms and explanatory notes about divorce statistics can be accessed using the web-links provided on this page.


Information on marriages from 2003 onwards is be available in the new electronic product, Marriages, Australia (cat. no. 3306.0.55.001).



UNAVAILABILITY OF DATA

Post 2001 Estimated Resident Population (ERP) by marital status is not yet available.



DATA NOTES

The ERP at 30 June 2001 and for previous years used in the calculation of crude and age-specific divorce rates in this product are final. ERP at 30 June 2002 and 2003 is revised (see the Explanatory Notes for information about preliminary, revised and final ERP).



CHANGES IN THIS ISSUE

Detailed divorce tables are available for purchase in data cube (Microsoft Excel) format. The order of the tables has been modified since the 2002 release.



INQUIRIES

For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or Cassandra Eaves on Canberra (02) 6252 6384.



SUMMARY COMMENTARY


DIVORCES GRANTED

There were 53,100 divorces granted in Australia in 2003, representing a decrease of 2% (or 860 divorces) compared with divorces granted in 2002 (54,000). Divorces granted in 2003 were the third highest number granted in the last 20 years, with divorces granted in 2001 (55,300) being the highest. Divorces in 2003 represent an increase of 10% on the number granted 10 years ago (48,400) and 22% on the number granted 20 years ago (43,500).

Divorces granted, Australia
Graph: Divorces granted, Australia




INTRODUCTION OF THE FEDERAL MAGISTRATES COURT, SEPTEMBER 2000

The Family Court of Australia has administered divorce under the Family Law Act 1975 since 1976. In September 2000, the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia (formally known as the Federal Magistrates Service) was established to provide a simpler and more accessible service for litigants and to ease the workload of both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia. The introduction of the Federal Magistrates Court may have had some influence on the decrease in divorces in 2000 and increase in divorces from 2001 onwards (see paragraphs 2-4 of the Explanatory Notes for more details).



DIVORCE RATES

The crude divorce rate (the number of divorces per 1,000 population) has changed little over the years. This rate was 2.7 per 1,000 in 2002 and 2003, while it was 2.8 per 1,000 in 1983.


As the estimated resident population of Australia by marital status for post 2001 years is not yet available, the latest divorce rates based on the married population are for 2001 (see paragraph 21 of the Explanatory Notes for more detail). The divorce rate of the married population in 2001 was 13.1 per 1,000 married men or women. This represents an increase from the rate of 11.9 per 1,000 married men and 12.0 per 1,000 married women in 2000 and an increase from the rate of 11.6 per 1,000 married men and 11.5 per 1,000 married women in 1991.



LIKELIHOOD TO DIVORCE

Analysis of a net nuptiality table indicates that the expectation to divorce is increasing. If a newly-born group of babies was exposed to 1997-1999 rates of marriage, widowing, divorce, remarriage and mortality, 32% of their marriages would end in divorce. This is an increase on the proportion expected if 1990-1992 rates were applied (29%) and if 1985-1987 rates were applied (28%). For further information, see the Special Article 'Lifetime Marriage Formation and Marriage Dissolution in Australia' p.84 of Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2000 (cat. no. 3310.0).



AGE AT DIVORCE

The median age at divorce (the age at which there are as many people divorcing above the age as there are below it) continued to increase in 2003. The median age of men at divorce was 42.6 years, up from 42.2 years in 2002 and 39.3 years in 1993. The median age of men at divorce has increased by 6.3 years over the last 20 years. For women, the median age at divorce for 2003 increased to 39.9 years, up from 39.5 years in 2002 and 36.4 years in 1993. The median age of women at divorce has increased by 6.2 years over the last 20 years.


The rise in the median age at divorce is associated with increasing age at first marriage and to some extent the increase in the interval between marriage and divorce. The median age at first marriage for males was 29.2 years in 2003, up from 29.0 years in 2002 and 27.0 years in 1993. For females, the median age at first marriage was 27.3 years in 2003, up from 27.1 years in 2002 and 24.8 years in 1993. More information about marriage statistics can be found in Marriages, Australia 2003 (cat. no. 3306.0.55.001).

Median age at divorce, Australia
Graph: Median age at divorce, Australia




RELATIVE AGE OF DIVORCING PARTIES

In 2003, 10% of divorcing couples were of the same age, 69% involved a younger wife and 19% involved a younger husband. Of all divorcing couples, 32% were aged 1-2 years apart, a further 22% 3-4 years apart, and 24% 5-9 years apart. Couples with an age difference of 10 years or more accounted for 10% of divorcing couples. Of these, 9% of couples involved a wife who was 10 or more years younger to her husband.


The relative age of divorcing parties reflects the age-structure of marriages and does not imply likelihood to divorce. For example, 69% of divorces involving a younger wife is consistent with marriages statistics that indicate that bridegrooms are traditionally older than brides. Median age at marriage is indicative of this trend. As shown in the graph below, in at least the last 20 years, the median age at marriage for males has consistently been around 2 years higher than that for females. This 69% of divorces involving a younger wife does not imply that such a marriage has a 69% chance of divorce.

Median age at marriage, Australia
Graph: Median age at marriage, Australia




AGE-SPECIFIC DIVORCE RATES

Males in the age groups 35-39 and 40-44 years experienced the highest divorce rate in 2003 (12.6 per 1,000). In 2002 males aged 40-44 years experienced the highest divorce rate (13.2 per 1,000). Females in the age groups 30-34 and 35-39 years experienced the highest divorce rate in 2003 (13.1 per 1,000). Females aged 30-34 years experienced the highest divorce rate in 2002 (13.7 per 1,000).



DURATION OF MARRIAGE FOR DIVORCING COUPLES

The median duration of marriage to both separation and divorce is increasing over time, revealing that marriages are, on average, lasting longer. The median duration of marriage to separation in 2003 was 8.7 years, compared with 8.6 years in 2002 and 7.6 years in 1993. The median duration of marriage to divorce in 2003 was 12.2 years, compared with 12.0 years in 2002 and 10.7 years in 1993.


In 2003, 6% of divorces involved separation within the first year of marriage, 33% within the first five years and a further 22% were separated within five to nine years of marriage. Of the divorcing couples in 2003, 17% were married less than five years, 25% between five and nine years and 59% were married for 10 years or more. Around 16% of divorces occurred to couples who had been married for 25 years or more.

Median duration to separation and divorce, Australia
Graph: Median duration to separation and divorce, Australia




APPLICANT FOR DIVORCE

As in previous years, more women (43%) than men (32%) lodged applications for divorce in 2003. The remainder of divorces granted in 2003 (25%) were the result of joint applications.


The median duration of marriage to divorce was shorter for female and joint applicants (each 11.5 years) than for male applicants (13.7 years).



DIVORCES INVOLVING CHILDREN

Over the last 10 years, the proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years has fallen slightly from 53% in 1993 to 50% in 2003. The actual number of children involved in divorce in 2003 (49,900) was down 1% compared with 2002 (50,500) and up 4% compared with 1993 (48,100).


Of divorces involving children in 2003, the age of the youngest child was between five and nine years for 36% of divorces, and less than 10 years for a further 62% of divorces.



COUNTRY OF BIRTH OF DIVORCING PARTIES

In 2003, 58% of divorces granted were to couples who were both born in Australia. Divorces to couples born in the same overseas country comprised 13% of divorces granted in 2003, while 27% of divorces were granted to couples who had chosen partners from a different country. Of those couples who had chosen a partner from a different country, 44% were overseas-born men divorcing Australian-born women, and 36% were overseas-born women divorcing Australian-born men.

1. SELECTED DIVORCE INDICATORS, Australia - Selected years from 1983 to 2003

1983
1993
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003

ALL DIVORCES

Divorces grantedno.
43,525
48,363
51,370
52,566
49,906
55,330
54,004
53,145
Crude divorce rate(a)rate
2.8
2.7
2.7
2.8
2.6
2.9
2.7
2.7
Median duration of marriage
To separationyears
7.8
7.6
7.8
7.9
8.2
8.3
8.6
8.7
To divorceyears
10.6
10.7
11.2
11.3
11.6
11.8
12.0
12.2
Divorces involving children(b)
Divorcesno.
26,828
25,461
27,447
28,331
26,295
28,345
26,820
26,637
Proportion of all divorces%
61.6
52.6
53.4
53.9
52.7
51.2
49.7
50.1
Number of childrenno.
52,059
48,107
51,602
53,444
49,612
53,396
50,509
49,850
Average number of children per divorceno.
1.94
1.89
1.88
1.89
1.89
1.88
1.88
1.87
Relative birthplace of parties(c)
Both born in Australiano.
26,977
27,160
29,318
30,494
28,728
32,139
na
30,674
Both born overseasno.
5,058
6,220
6,902
6,793
6,541
7,235
na
7,055
Born in different countriesno.
11,268
14,746
14,761
14,986
14,246
15,433
na
14,223
Applicant
Husbandno.
17,776
17,098
16,004
16,235
15,348
16,608
16,114
17,229
Wifeno.
25,749
23,630
25,380
26,353
24,595
26,035
24,049
22,870
Jointno.
na
7,635
9,986
9,978
9,963
12,687
13,841
13,046

HUSBAND

Age-specific divorce rates(d)
Age groups (years)
24 and underrate
1.9
1.0
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.5
0.4
0.4
25-29rate
12.3
8.5
7.1
6.8
5.8
6.2
5.5
5.3
30-34rate
15.3
13.1
12.7
12.9
11.6
12.4
11.5
10.8
35-39rate
14.2
13.1
13.3
13.3
12.7
13.6
13.1
12.6
40-44rate
12.5
12.8
12.6
12.8
12.1
13.3
13.2
12.6
45-49rate
9.9
10.8
11.0
11.2
10.9
12.1
12.1
11.7
50-54rate
7.2
8.4
8.7
9.1
8.9
9.9
9.5
9.5
55 and overrate
2.7
2.7
3.0
3.2
3.0
3.5
3.5
3.6
Median age of husband
At marriageyears
23.7
25.2
26.0
26.2
26.4
26.5
26.7
26.9
At separationyears
33.7
36.2
37.2
37.6
38.1
38.4
38.9
39.2
At divorceyears
36.3
39.3
40.5
40.9
41.4
41.8
42.2
42.6

WIFE

Age-specific divorce rates(d)
Age groups (years)
24 and underrate
4.3
2.3
1.6
1.4
1.2
1.3
1.2
1.1
25-29rate
15.9
12.5
11.0
10.9
9.6
10.0
8.9
8.5
30-34rate
15.0
13.9
14.1
14.1
13.3
14.4
13.7
13.1
35-39rate
13.3
13.2
13.1
13.7
12.6
13.9
13.6
13.1
40-44rate
10.9
11.5
11.7
12.2
11.5
12.8
12.7
12.3
45-49rate
8.2
9.4
9.5
9.8
9.5
10.6
10.4
10.5
50-54rate
5.2
5.9
6.7
6.7
6.7
7.4
7.3
7.3
55 and overrate
1.4
1.3
1.5
1.6
1.5
1.8
1.9
1.9
Median age of wife
At marriageyears
21.1
22.6
23.5
23.7
23.8
24.0
24.2
24.4
At separationyears
31.0
33.3
34.5
34.9
35.3
35.7
36.2
36.4
At divorceyears
33.7
36.4
37.8
38.2
38.6
39.1
39.5
39.9

na not available
(a) Per 1,000 estimated resident population.
(b) Unmarried children of the marriage, aged under 18 years, see Glossary.
(c) Excludes divorces where country of birth of one or both partners is not stated. Country of birth not available for 2002 - see paragraph 11 of Explanatory Notes for more detail.
(d) Per 1,000 estimated resident males or females. Males under 18 years and females under 16 years are excluded from the population.

2. SELECTED DIVORCE INDICATORS, States and territories - 2003

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT(a)
Aust.

Divorces grantedno.
16,285
12,865
10,681
4,151
5,685
1,336
490
1,652
53,145
Crude divorce rate(b)rate
2.4
2.6
2.8
2.7
2.9
2.8
2.5
np
2.7
Duration of marriage
To separationyears
7.9
8.7
8.8
9.3
9.4
9.8
8.0
9.6
8.7
To divorceyears
11.4
12.3
12.4
12.8
13.2
13.3
11.7
12.8
12.2
Divorces involving children(c)
Divorcesno.
7,347
6,739
5,549
2,192
2,942
737
239
892
26,637
Proportion of all divorces%
45.1
52.4
52.0
52.8
51.8
55.2
48.8
54.0
50.1
Number of childrenno.
13,441
12,688
10,532
4,058
5,600
1,382
468
1,681
49,850
Average number of children per divorceno.
1.83
1.88
1.90
1.85
1.90
1.88
1.96
1.89
1.87
Applicant
Husbandno.
5,068
4,208
3,440
1,341
1,965
423
150
634
17,229
Wifeno.
6,949
5,686
4,808
1,981
2,069
611
165
601
22,870
Jointno.
4,268
2,971
2,433
829
1,651
302
175
417
13,046
Median age of husband
At marriageyears
27.2
26.9
26.8
26.5
26.8
26.6
27.3
26.8
26.9
At separationyears
38.9
38.9
39.6
39.6
39.7
40.0
38.4
40.0
39.2
At divorceyears
42.2
42.3
43.1
43.0
43.3
43.6
42.0
43.2
42.6
Median age of wife
At marriageyears
24.6
24.5
24.1
24.0
24.3
24.5
24.6
24.3
24.4
At separationyears
36.0
36.3
36.6
37.0
37.0
37.7
35.8
36.8
36.4
At divorceyears
39.4
39.7
40.1
40.3
40.7
41.3
39.4
39.9
39.9

np not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
(a) Due to the large number of divorces granted in the ACT to persons usually resident in another state, numbers shown for the ACT are not representative of divorce in the ACT population.
(b) Per 1,000 estimated resident population.
(c) Unmarried children of the marriage, aged under 18 years, see Glossary.

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