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Fewer Marriages Registered

Marriages and Divorces: Year ended December 2001

Marriages registered in New Zealand in the year ended 31 December 2001 totalled 20,000, about 700 (or 3 percent) fewer than in 2000 (20,700), according to Statistics New Zealand. Over the same period, the marriage rate (number of marriages per 1,000 not-married population aged 16 years and over) fell from 15.6 to a new low of 14.8 per 1,000. The latest rate is less than a third of the peak level of 45.5 per 1,000 in 1971. Factors that have contributed to the low marriage rate include the growth of informal cohabitation, the trend towards delayed marriage and an increasing proportion of New Zealanders remaining single.

A growing proportion of marriages now involve the remarriage of one or both partners. In 2001, the number of marriages in which one or both partners had previously been divorced or widowed was 7,300, or just over one in three marriages.

The trend toward later marriage is continuing. Legal marriages among teenagers have become less common. In 1971, 8,700 teenage girls were married; three decades later, in 2001, the figure had dropped to just 600. Teenage girls made up 32 percent of all females who married in 1971, but just 3 percent in 2001. The median age at first marriage in 2001 was 29.3 years for men and 27.5 years for women. New Zealanders marrying for the first time in 2001 were, on average, about six and a half years older than their counterparts in 1971, when early marriage was the norm. Women still tend to marry men older than themselves; however, the gap between their median age at first marriage has narrowed, from three years in the mid-1960s to just under two years in 2001.

In the December 2001 year, 9,700 marriage dissolution orders were granted in family courts ? the same number as in 2000. The divorce rate (number of divorces per 1,000 estimated existing marriages) also remained unchanged at 12.3.

The median age at divorce in 2001 was 41.9 years for men and 39.3 years for women. These people were, on average, three years older than those who divorced a decade earlier. The rise partly reflects the steady rise in age at marriage during the past two decades.

Many marriages last a relatively short time. Divorces are most common among those couples who have been married 5 to 9 years. They accounted for one-quarter of all divorces in 2001. The median duration of marriages ending in divorce in 2001 was 13 years compared with 12 years in 1991. Analysis of divorce statistics by year of marriage shows that 30.0 percent of New Zealanders who had married in 1976 had divorced before their silver anniversary (25 years). For those married in 1967 and 1971, the corresponding figures were 25.9 and 29.3 percent respectively.

Just under half of all marriages that dissolved in 2001 involved children (under 18 years). The proportion of divorces involving children fell from 47.1 percent in 2000 to 46.8 percent in 2001. Of those divorces involving children, there was an average number of 1.9 children per divorce.

Brian Pink
Government Statistician

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