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Marriages increase again

Marriages and Divorces: December 1999 annual

Marriages increase again

There were more marriages and fewer marriage dissolutions in 1999 than in 1998, according to Statistics New Zealand's latest marriage and divorce statistics.

For the second consecutive year, the number of marriages increased. Marriages registered in New Zealand in the year ended 31 December 1999 totalled 21,085, an increase of 950 marriages (4.7 per cent) on last year (20,135). The rate of marriage (number of marriages per 1,000 not-married population aged 16 years and over) rose from 15.7 per 1,000 in 1998 to 16.2 per 1,000 in 1999. However, the latest marriage rate is only about a third of the peak level of 45.5 per 1,000 recorded in 1971. The low current marriage rate may be attributed to the growth of de facto relationships, the trend towards delayed marriage and more New Zealanders remaining single.

The trend towards later marriage is continuing. Between 1998 and 1999, the median age at first marriage of both New Zealand men and women rose by 0.3 years from 28.6 years to 28.9 years, and from 26.7 years to 27.0 years, respectively. First-time brides and grooms in 1999 were, on average, about six years older than their counterparts in 1971, when early marriage was the norm. While women still tend to marry men older than themselves, the gap between their average age at first marriage has narrowed, from 3.0 years in the mid-1960s to 2.0 years in 1999.

In the December 1999 year, a total of 9,936 marriage dissolution orders were granted in Family Courts, 101 (1.0 per cent) fewer than in 1998 (10,037). The divorce rate (number of divorces per 1,000 estimated existing marriages) fell fractionally from 12.7 in 1998 to 12.6 in 1999.

A growing proportion of marriages now involve the remarriage of one or both partners. In 1999 the number of marriages in which one or both partners had previously been divorced or widowed was 7,476, or about one in three of all legal marriages. This compares with 4,385, or one in six, in 1971. About 90 per cent of those remarrying in 1999 were divorced, up from 67 per cent in 1971.

The median age at divorce in 1999 was 41.2 years for men and 38.4 years for women. These people were, on average, 2.9 years older than those who divorced a decade earlier in 1989.

Analysis of divorce statistics by year of marriage shows that 30 per cent of New Zealanders who had married in 1973, had divorced before their 25th wedding anniversary. For those married in 1967 and 1970, the corresponding figures were 25.9 and 28.3 per cent respectively.

The proportion of divorces involving children fell from 48.7 per cent in 1998 to 47.8 per cent in 1999. The number of children involved was 8,902 in 1999, a decrease of 498 or 5.3 per cent on the 1998 figure of 9,400 children. One-half of these were under 10 years of age.

Dianne Macaskill


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