Divorce rate fluctuates over past 20 years

Date: Mar 30, 2012

There have been fluctuations in the amount of cases dealt with by divorce lawyers over the past 20 years, the latest Social Trends Report shows.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS reveals that although more divorces were granted in 2010, the overall divorce rate was lower than in 1990.

During the past 20 years, the divorce rate has fallen from 2.5 separations per 1,000 people to 2.3.

Peaks in activity were registered in 1996 and 2009, while the lowest number of divorces was granted in 2008.

The median length of time before the separation of a marriage has remained broadly stable over the past two decades, standing at 8.8 years in 2010, up from 7.5 years in 1990.

Interestingly, there has been an increase in the length of time coupes are separated before they file for divorce - rising from 2.7 years to 3.5.

Data shows that people are now choosing to marry later in life and divorce at older ages, as the average age for separation has increased by around six years for both men and women.

In 2010, the median age for divorce was 44.4 years for men and 41.5 for women, up from 38.2 years and 35.3 respectively in 1990.

Report author Donna Goodman commented: "One of the main findings is that Australians are leaving those life events - getting married or having a baby or getting a divorce - they're leaving them later."

Over the past 20 years, there has been a fall in the number of divorces involving children, down from 56 to 49 per cent.

In recent years, divorces between couples with children under 18 years of age made up around half of all separations in Australia - a rate that has remained stable since 2002.

It is most common for children to live without regular contact with their father rather than their mother, as 81 per cent of families carry on living in the maternal home.

In many of these instances, the families will no doubt have come to child custody agreements.

Almost half (48 per cent) saw their other parent at least once a fortnight, while 24 per cent came into contact with them less than once a year or never at all.

It is most common for children of divorced couples to live in one-parent families, while 14 per cent reside in a stepfamily and 11 per cent in blended family units.