Marriage and divorce statistics Australia

Using the latest available data; All statistics correct as of 15/05/2020.

At Damien Greer Lawyers, we have over 40 years of expertise in advising on all aspects of family law, including marriage and divorce.

Over this period of time, we’ve seen considerable changes in both the way that people get married and divorced in Australia, and the frequency in which they do so. To learn more about marriage and divorce in Australia, and to see how we compare with the rest of the world, we’ve pulled together all the latest statistics.

Marriage Rates in Australia

Since the 1970s, Australia’s population has almost doubled. However, despite the increase in population, in 2017, there were fewer marriages than there were in 1970.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, there were 116,066 marriages in 1970, and only 112,954 in 2017. For the past decade, the number of marriages has been relatively stable.

In addition to this, the data shows that we’re waiting longer to marry than we have done before.

In 1971, the median age for men to marry was 23.4 years. In 2017, that rose to 30.4 years. For women, it’s a similar story. In 1970, the median age for women to marry was 21.1 years. In 2017, that rose to 28.8 years.

Similarly, more and more of us are living together before we marry. This is seen clearly when we look at the proportion of marriages that were preceded by cohabitation:

  • 1975 – 16.0%
  • 1995 – 56.3%
  • 2005 – 75.9%
  • 2017 – 81.3%

On top of this, the way we’re getting married is also changing. This is because an increasing number of couples are turning to a civil celebrant to conduct their marriage ceremony.

In 1902, only 3.5% of all marriages were performed by civil celebrants, while the other 96.5% were performed by a minister of religion. Now, the picture is completely different, and 78.0% are performed by civil celebrants, with only 22.0% performed by a minister of religion.

Now, the picture is completely different, and 78.0% are performed by civil celebrants, with only 22.0% performed by a minister of religion.

Marriage by State in Australia

In 2018, all states and territories in Australia recorded an increase in marriages compared with 2017, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory.

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, New South Wales recorded the largest increase in marriages, up 3,751 (10.2%). Similarly, Tasmania had the greatest percentage increase in marriages, up 11.5% (257 marriages).

At the other end of the scale, the Australian Capital Territory registered 112 fewer marriages (down 6.7%).

Of all the states to record an increase in the number of marriages compared with 2017, Victoria registered the fewest with 23 (a change of 0.1%).

When we look at the raw marriage data for 2016, we can see an interesting pattern that shows the difference in marriage rates by state.

For example, New South Wales comfortably held the most wedding ceremonies (39,262), while the Northern Territory held the fewest (789). That’s a difference of 38,473! The full data is as follows:

  • New South Wales – 39,262
  • Victoria – 31,119
  • Queensland 22,878
  • Western Australia 12,317
  • South Australia 8,347
  • Tasmania 2,508
  • Australian Central Territory 1,175
  • Northern Territory 789

How do Australia’s Marriage Statistics Compare Internationally?

When we look at international marriage statistics, we see that other countries also have stable marriage rates, just like Australia.

For example, there were 249,793 marriages in England and Wales in 2016, which was 1.7% more than in 2015, but 1.0% fewer than in 2014.

In addition, ceremonies abroad are also becoming less religious. For the first time ever, less than one-quarter (24%) of all marriages in the UK in 2016 were religious ceremonies.

Similarly, Eurostat’s data shows us that, like in Australia, residents of the EU are waiting longer before they get married.

For example, the average age of a German man getting married in 2007 was 32.1, but this climbed to 34 in 2017. It’s also the same story in France, where the average age was 32.2 in 2007 and has now risen to 34.9.

Of all the countries in the world, data from The Economist shows us that Qatar has the lowest number of marriages per 1,000 people (1.4), while the West Bank and Gaza has the highest (10.4).

By comparison, Australia’s marriage rate was 4.9.

Divorce Rates in Australia

Since the introduction of ‘no fault divorce’ in 1976, Australia’s crude divorce rate (the number of divorces per 1,000 Australian residents) has fallen steadily from highs of 4.5, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

In 2017, it stood at 2.0, which was a slight rise from 2016, when the crude divorce rate was 1.9. This was its lowest level since 1976. The divorce rate was highest for those aged 25-29. After this, divorce rates dropped slightly and those aged 55 and above were least likely to divorce.

The most recent data available shows that 49,404 divorces were granted in Australia in 2018. For these, the median age at divorce was 45.9 for men and 43.2 for women.

Average Marriage Length in Australia

The data from 2018 shows us that the average marriage in Australia lasts for 12.3 years.

The data also shows that couples who have been married for nine years or less are the most likely to separate or divorce. The official figures from 2017 show that 56% of separations and 43% of divorces were from couples in this category.

But, the number of couples who are divorcing after a marriage of 20 years or longer has also risen.

In 1980 and 1990, 20% of divorces were couples who had been married for 20 years, but this figure has now risen to 28%.

Divorce Rates for Second Marriages in Australia

In 2016, 72% of marriages were between couples who had not been married previously.

Of the remaining marriages, 16% contained one person who had been married previously and 12% were between couples where both partners had been in previous marriages.

But sadly, the data also tells us that second and third marriages are more likely to end in divorce.

The latest data on Australian divorces shows us that while only a third of first-time marriages end in divorce, around 60% of second marriages end in divorce.

Children of Divorce Statistics

Interestingly, the proportion of divorces involving children has fallen since the introduction of the Family Law Act.

In 1975, 67.6% of divorces involved children under 18, but this fell to 47.1% in 2017.

Similarly, in 2014, the divorce rate among couples with children was 40% lower than couples without children.

At present, 1 in 5 children in Australia are now growing up in a single parent environment.

When looking at the number of children per divorce, we can see that, of all divorces involving children:

  • 39.4% involved one child
  • 42.4% involved two children
  • 14% involved three children
  • 3.4% involved four children
  • 0.8% involved five or more children.

Divorce by State

Data released by Statista reveals that the crude divorce rate for 2018 was highest in Queensland, and the lowest in the Northern Territory:

  • Queensland 2.3
  • Tasmania 2.1
  • Western Australia 2.1
  • Victoria 2
  • South Australia 1.9
  • New South Wales 1.7
  • Northern Territory 1.6

But, looking at the divorce rate doesn’t always tell us the full picture. When looking at data for 2016, we can see that (in terms of raw numbers), more divorces took place in New South Wales than anywhere else in Australia:

  • New South Wales – 13,361
  • Victoria – 11,179
  • Queensland – 10,890
  • South Australia – 5,510
  • Western Australia – 3,127
  • Australian Central Territory – 1,210
  • Tasmania – 1,019
  • Northern Territory – 308

How do Australia’s divorce statistics compare internationally?

Unlike some Western nations who bemoan a 50% divorce rate, Australian marriages seem to be a little more resilient, with around 30% of marriages ending in divorce.

Divorce rates in Northern Europe, Western Europe and North America are particularly high. When we look at America, we see a great contrast with Australia. The USA is home to one of the highest divorce rates in the world, and someone gets divorced in the country every 13 seconds! This means:

  • 9 divorces occur in the time it takes a couple to recite their wedding vows
  • 277 divorces happen every hour
  • 1,385 divorces happen during the average wedding reception
  • 6,646 divorces take place every day
  • 46,523 divorces happen every year
  • 19,353,568 divorces will be finalised over the length of an average first marriage that ends in divorce

Similarly, in the European Union, almost 1 million divorces took place in 2016. Alongside this, the divorce rate has increased from 0.8 per 1,000 persons in 1965 to 1.9 in 2016, according to Eurostat.

Of all countries in the EU, Portugal had the highest divorce rate per 100 marriages in 2016, according to Statista. The top 5 were:

  • Portugal – 69
  • Luxembourg – 65.9
  • Denmark – 56
  • Spain – 56
  • Finland – 55.4.

In terms of marriage length, Australia compares favourably with the rest of the world. Remember, the average first marriage in Australia lasts for 12.3 years. In America, this drops to 8 years. In fact, France (13 years), Canada (13.8 years) and Italy (18 years) are the only countries where the average first marriage lasts longer than it does in Australia.

Finally, Australia’s high divorce rates for second and third marriages appear to be replicated worldwide. In the United States of America, for example, past statistics have shown that 67% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Same-sex marriage statistics for Australia

Since same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia in 2017, we’ve seen a great number of same-sex couples show their love to each other by getting married.

The 2016 census counted just under 46,800 same-sex couples living together in Australia, which accounted for 0.9% of all couples (up from 0.7% in 2011).

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, within six months of the legislation passing, 3,149 same-sex weddings were held, and over a third of these were held in New South Wales!

The first data release also showed that same-sex female couples were more eager to wed than same-sex male couples. as 56.3% of the same-sex marriages registered by 30 June 2018 were same-sex female couples, while 43.7% were male same-sex couples.

When we fast forward to the most recent statistics, we can see that 6,538 same-sex couples wed in Australia in 2018, which was the first full year after same-sex marriages were legalised. This accounts for 5.5% of all marriages in Australia during the period.

Same-sex marriages Australia 2019

For individuals entering into a same-sex marriage in 2018, the data shows us that:

  • 4,940 males and 6,104 females were marrying someone for the first time
  • 558 males and 1,428 females were previously divorced
  • 16 males and 36 females were widowed
  • The median age of a male in a same-sex marriage was 44.9 years (compared with 32.1 years in an opposite-sex marriage)
  • The median age of a female in a same-sex marriage was 39.3 years (compared with 30.2 years in an opposite-sex marriage)

Due to the length of time it takes to get legally divorced in Australia, any same-sex couples currently getting divorced are unlikely to have been married under the current marriage laws.

However, the data shows that there were 72 divorces of same-sex couples in 2018, which accounts for 0.1% of all divorces.

Of the couples getting divorced, 22 were of male same-sex couples, and 50 were of female same-sex couples.

How do Australia’s same-sex marriage statistics compare internationally?

Unfortunately, same-sex marriage is not legal around the world, and many countries do not allow two people of the same sex to marry (here’s a list of countries that allow same-sex marriage). This means it’s hard to compare data around the world.

However, the figures from Australia are comparable to the UK.

In their latest data release, we can see that there were 6,932 marriages between same-sex couples in 2017. Of these, 56% were between female couples. Additionally, there were 1,072 couples who converted their existing civil partnership into a marriage.

In the USA, the number of same-sex marriages is also on the rise. Data released by Gallup revealed that, in 2017, over 10% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) adults in the US were married to a same-sex spouse. This is up from 7.9% two years earlier.

It’s also a similar story in Spain, where gay marriage was adopted back in 2005. Since then, more than 50,000 same-sex marriages have taken place, according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute. Plus, of all the years since gay marriage was legalised, 2019 was the most popular, with 5,108 recorded weddings.

Wedding costs in Australia

For many of us, a wedding is the biggest and best party we’ll ever throw. After all, you’ll want all your friends and family at your big day, so it’s easy for the cost per head to spiral. So, let’s take a look at the average costs for a wedding in Australia:

$22,055 – the average original wedding budget

$26,895 – the average of what people think their wedding will actually cost

$32,333 – the final actual average wedding cost

It’s easy to see how costs soon spiral, too. The below chart outlines the average cost for all these wedding items across Australia.

Average cost of wedding items Australia

And even after the wedding, all the spending isn’t done. This is because the average honeymoon costs $7,307, with the most popular destinations including Europe, the USA, the Caribbean, Fiji and Thailand.

All average wedding costs have been supplied by Easy Weddings and their Australian Wedding Industry Report (2019).

How do Australia’s wedding cost statistics compare internationally?

Well, according to the Australian Wedding Industry Report, the average cost for an Australian wedding is $32,333. This means it’s cheaper to get married in Australia than:

  • The United States of America ($45,030)
  • Spain ($36,093)
  • Italy ($34,697)
  • Canada ($33,772)

But, it’s more expensive to get married in Australia than:

  • The United Kingdom ($29,606)
  • France ($27,141)
  • Portugal ($25,753)
  • Mexico ($13,260)
  • Peru ($11,872)
  • Chile ($11,410)
  • Brazil ($10,177)
  • Argentina ($5,704)
  • Colombia ($5,087)

Average wedding costs taken from the Global Wedding Report (2019). GBP to AUD exchange rate calculated on 31/03/2020.

Contact Damien Greer Lawyers

If you’re thinking about getting married in Australia, then we can help you learn more about entering into a binding financial agreements which can ensure asset protection. Likewise, we can also help advise you on getting your overseas marriage or any orders registered in Australia.

Alternatively, if you’ve come to the end of a relationship and you need to  divorce or have a property settlement, we can advise you based on your circumstances and help you get the process started .

If you’d like to learn more, then please contact us today or get started online.

All statistics correct as of 15/05/2020.