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Half of marriages leads to divorce during the previous year

Underlying these changes are significant shifts in family formation norms, nuptiality patterns and reproductive behaviour, the growth of de facto or common law unions, and a rise in the divorce rate. This article briefly reviews the major trends in marriage and divorce in New Zealand over the last three decades. Marriages There were 21,085 marriages registered during the December 1999 year, an increase of 950 or 4.

This is the largest annual increase in marriages recorded since 1982. Despite increases in the number of marriages in the last two years, the latest figure is still 22 percent lower than the post-war peak of 27,199 in 1971, and it is lower than the number of marriages recorded in any year between 1965 and 1991.

How Common is Divorce and What are the Reasons?

The general marriage rate number of marriages per 1,000 estimated not-married population aged 16 years and overwhich has been declining fairly steadily since 1971, rose from 15.

It is too early to say whether this shift is significant, however, previous departures from the downward trend 1981 and 1990 were small by comparison. Despite the latest upturn, the current marriage rate is only about one-third of that recorded at the post-war marriage peak in 1971 of 45. Many factors have contributed to this large fall in the marriage rate and these include: The proportion of marriages in which one or both partners had previously been divorced or widowed has grown in recent years.

In 1971, 4,385 or about one in six marriages involved the remarriage of one or both partners. By 1999, this number had risen to 7,476 or about one in three of all legal marriages. Divorcees accounted for about 90 percent of persons who remarried in 1999, well up from 67 percent in 1971.

Divorcees who remarry are more likely to marry another divorced person than a never-married or widowed person. This can be partly attributed to the increase in half of marriages leads to divorce during the previous year number of divorcees.

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In 1971, only 4 percent of not-married people were divorced; by 1996 this had risen to 14 percent. Among those aged 40 to 49 years, 51 percent of not-married people were divorcees. Higher rates of remarriage are now another important factor in the continuing rise in the age at marriage. Divorced and widowed men and women are generally older at the time of remarriage than those marrying for the first time. In 1999, the median age half of those marrying are older than this age of divorced and widowed men remarrying was 43.

Age at half of marriages leads to divorce during the previous year The shift away from early marriage has resulted in fewer men and women marrying in their teens. In 1999, only 665 teenage girls were married, compared with 8,717 in 1971.

Teenage brides made up 32 percent of all brides in 1971, compared with just 3 percent in 1999. The trend towards later marriage, which is common in most developed countries, has seen the median age of first-time grooms rise to 28.

First time grooms and brides in 1971 were, on average, about six years younger than their present day counterparts, with median ages of 23. Women still marry men older than themselves, but the gap between the average age of men and women at first marriage has narrowed.

In the mid-1960s this gap was 3. The rise in median age at marriage is a reflection of: At the 1971 Census, about one in three women aged 20 to 24 years had never married; in 1996 well over four in five women in this age group had never married.

Similarly in 1996, 51 percent of 25 to 29 year olds and 28 percent of 30 to 34 year-old women had never married. In 1971, the corresponding figures were 12 and 6 percent, respectively. De facto unions With an increasing proportion of New Zealand men and women remaining unmarried through their thirties, it appears likely that fewer will ultimately marry.

A growing proportion of New Zealanders, like their counterparts in Australia, North America and Half of marriages leads to divorce during the previous year, live together without legalising or formalising their union. In 1996, about one in four men and women aged 15 to 44 years who were in partnerships, were not legally married.

De facto unions are more common than marriage among younger New Zealanders. Among women aged 20 to 24 years, 62 percent of those who were in partnerships at the 1996 Census were in a de facto union. For men, the corresponding figure was 73 percent. Marriage dissolutions Changes in the number of divorces and divorce rate in New Zealand since 1961 are shown in Table 1.

The sharp rise in the number of divorces in the early 1980s mainly reflects the legislative changes introduced in 1981. The Family Proceedings Act 1980, passed in 1981, meant that an application for marriage dissolution could be made by either the husband or wife on the grounds that the marriage had broken down irreconcilably, provided a two-year separation requirement was satisfied. Many couples who could satisfy the two-year separation requirement for the single ground of irreconcilable marriage breakdown sought the simpler Family Court dissolution.

Consequently, divorces recorded a temporary high of 12,395 in 1982. Subsequently, both the number and rate of marriage dissolutions dropped, but the trend has been upward again since the late 1980s. Half of marriages leads to divorce during the previous year for the last four years suggest the number of divorces has temporarily stabilised at around 10,000 per year.

In 1999, the family courts granted 9,936 marriage dissolution orders, a slight decrease of 101 or 1 percent on the 1998 figure of 10,037. The divorce rate number of divorces per 1,000 estimated existing marriageswhich rose sharply in the mid-1990s, also appears to be experiencing a respite from its upward trend. In 1999 the divorce rate stood at 12.

During the late 1980s the rate averaged 11. It fluctuated around 12. A significant proportion of marriages in New Zealand last for a relatively short time Figure 3. Couples who had been married for between five and nine years accounted for over one-quarter of all divorces in 1999.

Almost two out of every five marriages dissolved in 1999 had lasted for less than 10 years. Annual divorce statistics, however, tend to exaggerate the incidence of marriage break-up. Cohort data indicate that 83 percent of couples who married in 1989 were still together in 1999, and for about two-thirds of couples, death, not divorce, will end their marriage.

Age at divorce The rise in age at divorce is continuing. This partly reflects the marked trend half of marriages leads to divorce during the previous year later marriages, which started in the early 1970s.

The median age at divorce in 1999 was 41. Divorcees were, on average, almost three years older than those whose marriages dissolved a decade ago, in 1989. The median ages then were 38. For women, divorce continues to be most common amongst those aged 25 to 29 years, with 23. Among men, the most common age for divorce fluctuates between the 25 to 29 year-old age group and those aged 30 to 34 years.

In 1999, the most common age group was 25 to 29 years, with 23. In 1999, men aged 30 to 34 years had the second highest divorce rate of 22. Half the marriages dissolved in 1999 had lasted less than 12. This compares with the median duration of 12. The upturn in median duration of marriage may be attributed partly to the breakdown of more long-term marriages, particularly those over 25 years duration.

More detailed marriage and divorce statistics than those published in this article are available on request from Statistics New Zealand.