Source: The Weekend Australian, 16 August, 1997, (Australia Today: An 8-page special) p.4
FEWER people are marrying than at any time in the past 17 years, but the number of divorces has hit an all- time high. For every two marriages in Australia last year, there was one divorce, a ratio unheard of since 1976 when the Family Law Act was introduced, making divorce easier. The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics also reveal that almost a third of the adult population has never married, compared with 25 per cent in 1976. And while most men and women still marry between their 25th and 29th birthdays (the median age is now 29.6 years for men and 27.2 years for women), more than half live with their partner before tying the knot. Last year, 106,100 marriages were registered, a fall of nearly 8 per cent since 1986 and the lowest number since 1979. The crude marriage rate of 5.8 per 1000 population was the lowest recorded in Australia this century. When we do marry, more of us than before prefer a civil celebrant to a traditional church wedding. Civil marriages comprised 43.1 per cent of all marriages in 1994 compared with 28.9 per cent in 1976 and 10.8 per cent in 1966. Last year also saw the granting of 52,500 divorces, an increase of 13,100 on 1986. This takes the divorced population to 942,000, more than four times the size it was two decades ago. Most applications for divorce continue to be lodged by wives (46 per cent) although joint applications are also increasingly common, comprising 22 per cent of last year's divorces compared with 7 per cent in 1986. Almost 40 per cent of marriages are now likely to end in divorce within 30 years, 19 per cent within 10 years, and about 8 per cent within five years. People in second or subsequent marriages have an even greater chance of marriage failure: a 20 per cent risk after 10 years, 35 per cent after 20 years and 42 per cent after 30 years. However the number of people remarrying has declined for almost all age groups in the 10 years to 1996. The number of children affected by divorce has also declined. In 1986, 60 per cent of divorces involved children, but by 1996 the proportion had fallen to 54 per cent. -MICHELLE GUNN
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