Divorce rates in Australia

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Divorces

The crude divorce rate (divorces per 1,000 Australian residents) rose in the 1960s and 1970s and peaked at 4.6 per 1,000 resident population after the introduction of the Family Law Act 1975, which came into operation in January 1976 and allowed no-fault divorce. 

The divorce rate started trending down in the 2000s. In 2016 it was 1.9, the lowest rate since 1976. It rose slightly in 2017 to sit at 2.0.

Crude divorce rate, 1901–2017

Figure 1: Crude divorce rate, 1901–2017

Note: Crude divorce rate: Number of divorces per 1,000 of estimated resident population at June for each reference year.
Sources: ABS (various years) Marriages and Divorces Australia (Catalogue No. 3310.0); ABS (various years) Divorces Australia (Catalogue No. 3307.0, 3307.0.55.001) 

At what age are couples divorcing?

In 2016, for both men and women, the divorce rate was highest for those aged 25–29 years. After that, divorce rates lower slightly, staying steady for couples during their 30s before a second peak in their late 40s. After 55, couples become increasingly less likely to divorce.

Age-specific divorce rates, married population, 2016

Figure 2: Graph showing the age-specific divorce rates, married population, 2016

Sources: ABS (2017) Marriages and Divorces Australia 2016 (Catalogue No. 3310.0)

Duration of marriage to divorce

The largest proportion of couples separating and then divorcing are those who have been married nine years or less. In 2017, 56% of separations and 43% of divorces were from couples in this category.

However, the proportion of couples divorcing who had been married for 20 years and longer has been increasing in recent decades. In 1980 and 1990, 20% of divorces were couples who had been married for 20 years. This had increased to 28% in 2010 and 27% in 2017.

Duration of marriage to separation/divorce, selected years

Sources: ABS (various years) Marriages and Divorces Australia (Catalogue No. 3310.0)

What about the children?

The proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years has fallen since the 1970s, from 68% in 1975 to 47% in 2017. This trend is partly due to the rise in divorces of long-term marriages where children have grown up.

Figure 3: Infographic showing the proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years has been falling

Infographic describing the divorce rate. At 1.9, 2016 was the lowest the divorce rate has been since 1976 while in 2017 it rose slightly to 2.0

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