Statistics Don’t Lie: Marriage and Divorce Rate in Australia
The rapidly increasing divorce rate in Australia in 2021 is believed to be caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It may have hit our livelihood the hardest, but there’s a more tragic story we don’t hear every day that affects many Australian families: divorcing couples.
The work-from-home and home-schooling setups, together with financial and business woes, have drastically taken their toll on the relationships of each family member, especially the parents.
There is a consensus amongst divorce lawyers in Australia that this resulted in stress and anxiety, triggering misunderstandings.
- The COVID-19 pandemic affected marriage and divorce rates in Australia from 2019-2021.
- 2020 registered the lowest marriage record with only 78,898, while it slightly peaked in 2021 with 89,164. It may show an increase of 12.9%, but it’s still 21.7% lower than the pre-pandemic year 2019, with 113,815 marital unions.
- The 2021 divorce rate in Australia shows that the median marriage-to-divorce duration is now 12.2 years.
- 1 out of 7 Australian couples has considered staying together in their family home after the separation due to financial setbacks and co-parenting consistency.
- There were 2,842 same-sex marriages recorded in 2021, a reduction of 60 (2.1%) from the previous year. The same year also recorded 3.2% of all marriages registered in Australia as same-sex unions.
- In 2021, there were 56,244 divorces issued in Australia, a 13.6% rise over 2020, with only 49,510 separation.
- All states and provinces (with the notable exception of the Australian Capital Territory) have witnessed a rise in the number of divorces granted since 2020.
- There were 306 female same-sex couples and 167 male same-sex couples filed for divorce, for 473 same-sex divorces in 2021.
What Percentage of Australians Are Married?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) ‘s data indicates that sixty per cent (60%) of adult Australians are married or in a relationship.
With lockdowns and restricted gatherings during the pandemic, it is not a surprise that marriage records show a downhill trend in 2020 and 2021.
2020 registered the lowest marriage record with only 78,898, while it peaked slightly in 2021 with 89,164. It may show an increase of 12.9%, but it’s still 21.7% lower than the pre-pandemic year 2019, with 113,815 marital unions.
The crude marriage rate for 2020 shows only 3.1 marriages per 1000 residents.
State and Territory Marriage Rate
Compared to 2019, 31.0% fewer weddings in New South Wales were celebrated and 34.6% fewer in Victoria, with the Delta surge and accompanying public health orders influencing marriage plans beginning in mid-2021.
New South Wales was the only state where weddings decreased compared to 2020.
Marriages in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Fewer Couples Are Getting Married
Gone are the days when couples living together in the same house had to be married.
Societal views have changed, allowing couples to cohabitate without formally getting married.
In 1971, the average age at which males marry was 23.4 years old.
This grew to 32.1 years old in 2021.
For women, the situation is comparable.
In 1970, the average age of brides was 21.1 years old, which significantly grew to 30.5 years old in 2021.
From a legal perspective, the same property rights of legally married couples are now given to couples in a de facto relationship .
Average Marriage Length
Previously, many couples considering divorce were afraid to proceed with it because of fear of the stigma they may suffer.
But the 2021 statistics show that the median marriage-to-divorce duration is now 12.2 years.
47.8 per cent of granted divorces included spouses with children under 18 years old.
The average age for divorce for men was 45.9 years, and for women, it was 43.0 years.
Short-lived unions are now seen as less shameful, with society shifting towards positive views of separation, like peaceful home environments and decreased anxiety for all family members.
Living Together After Divorce in Australia
Surprisingly, 1 out of 7 Australian couples has considered staying together in their family home after the separation.
The costly move for both parties is one of the driving forces for these ex-couples to live even beyond the uncomfortable situation.
Another reason is if a child was conceived during the relationship.
Some couples believe in the benefit of cohabiting while co-parenting a child.
There were 2,842 same-sex marriages recorded in 2021, a reduction of 60 (2.1%) from the previous year.
The same year also recorded 3.2% of all marriages registered in Australia as same-sex unions.
Even though fewer same-sex weddings are celebrated each year since the legalisation at the end of 2017, the most significant decline happened between 2019 and 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with only 2,605 unions registered.
Divorce Rate in Australia
In 2021, there were 56,244 divorces issued in Australia, a 13.6% rise over 2020, with only 49,510 separations.
Both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit have indicated that the high number of divorces finalised in 2021 is partially attributable to reform measures intended to accelerate finalisations and decrease processing times.
The crude rate in 2021 shows 2.2 divorces per 1000 residents.
State and Territory Divorce Rate
All states and provinces (with the notable exception of the Australian Capital Territory) have witnessed a rise in the divorce rate in Australia since 2020.
New South Wales saw the most significant rise in divorces granted, with 17,126 in 2021 compared to 14,023 in 2020 and 14,197 in 2019.
On the other hand, the Australian Capital Territory recorded a slight increase from 2019-2021, with 1378 1478 and 1,422, respectively.
In 2021, the number of divorces per state and territory was as follows:
- New South Wales – 17,126
- Victoria – 12, 766
- Queensland – 13,475
- Western Australia – 5,989
- South Australia – 3,863
- Tasmania – 1,142
- Australian Capital Territory – 1,422
- Northern Territory – 461
Age-Specific Divorce Rates
The increased divorce rate in Australia in 2021 has led to rising rates across all age categories. The percentage distribution between age groups was consistent with prior years.
Men aged 40 to 44 and 45 to 49 had the most effective divorce rate, with 10.3 divorces per 1,000 men in both age categories.
For women, the highest divorce rate was among those aged 40 to 44, with 10.4 divorces per 1,000 women.
In younger demographics (under 45 years), women had a greater divorce rate than men.
In senior age groups (aged 45 or older), males had a greater divorce rate in Australia than females.
Same-Sex Divorce Rate in Australia
There were 306 female same-sex couples and 167 male same-sex couples indicated in the divorce rate in Australian data, for a total of 473 same-sex divorces in 2021.
In that same year, there were 2842 same-sex unions celebrated, with 1771 female couples and 1072 male couples, maintaining a pattern indicating that female partners are more likely to marry than male ones.
At Justice Family Lawyers, we understand how difficult and complex divorce can be to file and go through.
If you would like to discuss divorce matters and proceedings with an experienced lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.