The latest ABS statistics on marriage and divorce in Australia

The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in their publication entitled Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2016 show that in 2016 there were 46,604 divorces granted compared to 48,517 in 2015.

This constituted a decline of 3.9% in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Divorces granted in Australia have declined progressively since 1996 and the different censuses show the following data on divorce: –

  • 1996:  52,466
  • 2006:  51,375
  • 2012:  49,917
  • 2013:  47,638
  • 2014:  46,498
  • 2015:  48,517
  • 2016:  46,604

The crude divorce rate – defined as Divorces per 1,000 estimated resident population of males or females, at 30 June for each reference year respectively. Only those people aged 16 years and over, and therefore eligible to marry according to the Marriages Act 1961, are included – has declined from 2.9 in 1996 to 2016.

The Changing Nature of Divorce Applicants

Raw statistics momentarily to one side, what is of significant interest is the changing nature of who is the applicant for divorce and this has fluxed significantly since 1996.

Over those 7 censuses dating back to 1996, men have on average been the applicant for 27% of divorces with a peak of 32% in 1996 declining to 25% in 2016. Women on the other hand, on average applied for divorce in 36% of the cases – again with a high of 46% in 1996 which declined to 32% in 2016.

The number of joint applicants for divorce stood on average at 37% – increasing from 21% in 1996 right up to 43% in 2016.

It would appear on the whole, while marriages are breaking down at a slower rate, that both parties are more aligned in their quest to have a divorce granted.  In part, this may be due to the fact that where there are children under the age of 18, parties who make a joint application for divorce are not required to attend the divorce hearing (and, if successful, the divorce will be granted ‘on the papers’ and a Divorce Order sent to the parties by post) while those who make a sole application will be required to attend the hearing in order to satisfy the Court that proper arrangements have been made for the care of the children.

Staying Together for The Children?

The most recent ABS survey of divorces granted also sheds some light into another potential pattern that relates to the number of applicants seeking divorce who have children.

In 1996, the number of divorces involving children (under 18 years of age) stood at 53.6% of all divorce applications. By 2016, this had declined to 46.9% which is a significant change in volume. Could this indicate, alongside the growing volume of joint applications, that the Australian married population is potentially being more hesitant to seek separation?  Or are there simply more couples that are choosing to live in a de facto relationship (with or without children) than couples that chose to marry?

Declining Marriage Rate

Naturally many may argue that the declining rate of divorce may be attributable to a declining marriage rate. Again, the statistics shed some light and over those 7 data points we can see that the crude marriage rate – defined as Marriages per 1,000 of estimated resident population at 30 June for each reference year respectively – has declined marginally from a high of 5.8 in 1996 to 4.9 in 2016. This however dovetails with the growing percentage of couples that cohabit prior to committing to marriage. This latest data source shows that in 2006 (earliest capture point), 76.1% of all marriages cohabited before marriage rising 80.8% in 2016.

Does this mean that the key to marriage could be living together with your prospective spouse before tying the knot?  Time will tell!

If you are considering divorce, seek professional legal advice from Damien Greer Lawyers who have significant experience in divorce and separation and children and parenting matters – talk to our team today to see how we can help.