The average divorce in Australia occurs after 12 years

Written by Lance Jackson on 05 Apr 2024

Marriage and divorce statistics reflect fascinating trends in social dynamics in Australia. Data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) revealed that between 2011 and 2021, divorces in Australia occurred, on average, after 12.2 years. Interestingly, the AIFS stats also reveal that separation typically occurs between 8.3 to 8.7 years, which means it takes about 3 to 4 years from when a couple separates until they divorce. 

The average age of divorce occurs after 12 years in Australia, with a typical timeframe of about 3-4 years from separation to divorce. Couples are choosing to get married later in life, with the average age for men at 32.5 and women at 30.9 in 2022. The median divorce age was 45.9 for males and 43.1 for women, indicating that marriages and divorces happen later in life.

Some other trends we have seen are a gradual decline in the number of marriages across the country, an increase in divorces at a later stage and second marriages more likely to fail, which we will discuss further in this article. 

Fewer marriages in Australia 

In recent years, Australian societal norms towards marriage have evolved significantly.  Many couples now opt to live together and raise children without marrying. This shift is bolstered by legal and social frameworks that afford cohabiting couples, or de facto partners, similar rights to those married, including property claims, child support and other benefits. 

Despite a slight increase in 2022, the marriage rate, calculated as the number of marriages per 1,000 adult Australians, has gradually declined from a crude marriage rate of 9.6 in 1970 to 6.1 today. This can be attributed to the growing acceptance and viability of alternatives to traditional marriage.

Second marriages are more likely to end in divorce

Worldwide statistics indicate that second marriages are more likely to dissolve than first marriages. This might be attributed to various complex factors, including previous relationship experiences, blended family challenges, and differing expectations. From our research, about 60% of second marriages end in divorce compared to 30% of first marriages, which is quite a significant jump. 

The average age of couples when they divorce 

There is a clear trend of couples marrying later in life, leading to divorce later. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that the average age of marriage for males was 32.5 and females was 30.9 in 2022. The median age of divorce for men was 45.9, and for women was 43.1, very similar to the 12-year divorce timeframe average. 

One of the more common trends we are seeing in the legal community is a growing percentage of older couples, typically over 50, choosing to divorce – also known as grey divorce. These divorces often involve couples who have been married for several decades and may have grown-up children or grandchildren. 

Grey divorcees face unique challenges, including financial implications related to retirement savings and asset division and emotional adjustments to starting a new chapter of life later in adulthood.

What about children involved in a divorce? 

Divorces involving children under 18 years old fell to 48% in 2021, down significantly from 68% in 1975. This trend has occurred because of the growing number of divorces in which the children are already grown up. There is also a correlation between a fertility rate decline and the number of childless couples contributing to this trend. 

Some of the leading causes of divorce

Over time, individuals evolve, and their values, interests, and goals may diverge, leading to irreconcilable differences and the decision to part ways. In my experience, it is clear that some causes appear with remarkable consistency. 

Lack of compatibility 

Lack of compatibility or the realisation of different long-term goals and values can drive couples apart, underscoring the importance of mutual understanding and shared visions in marriage.

Infidelity 

Infidelity, unfortunately, remains a common catalyst, breaching trust and often irreparably damaging the relationship. 

Communication breakdown 

Communication breakdown is a significant factor, often resulting in misunderstandings and resentment between partners. 

Financial strain 

Financial strain also plays a role, where disagreements over finances or debt stress can erode the marital foundation. 

Is divorce costly? 

Divorce requires legal considerations, such as asset division, spouse maintenance and child support. Additionally, the transition from dual-income households to single-income realities may necessitate lifestyle adjustments, further highlighting the economic challenges of divorce. 

Despite these obstacles, some individuals find that careful financial planning and effective legal support can mitigate the impact, allowing them to rebuild and move forward.

What are your rights in a divorce? 

In the event of a divorce, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights, which aim to ensure fair outcomes for both parties involved. Both parties have the right to a fair division of marital assets, which includes property, savings, and superannuation, guided by the principle of equitable distribution. 

Another significant right pertains to spousal maintenance, where one party may be required to support the other financially post-divorce, depending on the length of the marriage and each individual’s financial needs and capacities. 

Additionally, if children are involved, parents have rights and responsibilities regarding their welfare and upbringing, with the children’s best interests considered in custody arrangements and support payments. 


Every situation is different, and understanding your rights is essential when dealing with the complex divorce process. A lawyer who specialises in divorce can help you understand and exercise these rights effectively.

How to protect yourself in a divorce 

Protecting yourself in a divorce is crucial to your emotional and financial well-being. Getting divorced in Australia can sometimes be challenging due to the legal procedures involved. 

We always recommend gathering necessary documents and financial records, including bank statements, property papers, and any binding financial agreements to support your case in situations where you may need legal representation. 

Binding financial agreements with clear financial arrangements can help prevent future disputes if a relationship breaks down, as they are legally binding documents. It is important to understand what is a binding financial agreement to see if this suits your situation.

It’s more common to hear the term ‘prenups’ because of the influence of American television. But there is no difference between prenups and binding financial agreements in Australia. The legal term is a binding financial agreement. These types of agreements a common in blended families and second or third marriages where a party wants to protect their assets or children’s inheritances from a previous marriage. 

Getting a legal professional to review these documents and advise on your situation can help you better understand your rights and responsibilities. 

We also advise our clients to seek as much support as possible from family, friends, or professional counselors who can prove vital for emotional resilience during this challenging time.

A compassionate and caring divorce lawyer 

As an experienced divorce lawyer in Sydney, Arcadian Legal is not just a legal advisor but a supportive guide. Through a sensitive and empathetic approach, we will make the process as smooth as possible, listening carefully to your needs and concerns and providing realistic advice on what to expect. We will advocate for you and protect your rights to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for your situation so you can move on to the next chapter in your life as quickly as possible. 

Where needed, we can also assist couples with fixed-fee binding financial agreements, child support agreements, court orders and more. 

Contact us today if you wish to discuss your situation. 

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Lance Jackson

Lance has dedicated more than 20 years to helping clients in all aspects of family law, including divorce and separation, financial settlements and children matters. His clients benefit from his longstanding experience, unrelenting commitment and genuine passion for law.
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About Arcadian Legal

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