Divorce goes out of fashion as couples wait to commit

Australian divorce ratesDivorce is on the wane in Australia as people think more carefully about their choice of life partner before saying “I do”.

Statistics from the Australian Institute of Family Studies show divorce has gone out of fashion this millennium, with the crude divorce rate falling from 2.8 per 1000 people in 2001 to 2.1 in 2013. The decline in divorce is particularly noticeable among couples aged 25-40.

“Marriage has become a more considered decision than in the past,” the institute’s researcher Lixia Qu said.

Divorce peaked in 1976 after the introduction of no-fault divorce.

Couples are also road-testing relationships by living together before marriage. Eight in 10 marriages are now preceded by cohabitation. “Cohabitation serves as a weeding-out process,” Dr Qu said.

Relationships Australia Illawarra manager Rhonda O’Donnell said couples have become more cautious about making a life commitment. The median age for first marriages is now 30 for men and 28 for women.

“People are delaying marriage until later, they’re older, they’ve often lived together and they’re being more considered about their choice [of partner],” she said.

family-facts-and-figures-divorceMs O’Donnell noted that many couples had experienced the divorce of their parents growing up, and did not want to end up in the same predicament.
Those that do marry are increasingly choosing a secular ceremony. Whereas an equal number of marriages were performed by a civil celebrant as a religious minister at the turn of the century, now only a quarter of marriage ceremonies are religious.

The proportion of divorces involving children under 18 has also dropped this century, from 53 per cent to 47 per cent. While the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 12 years, one in five divorces now involve couples who have been married for 20 years or more.

Trends in registered marriagesCouples are increasingly waiting until their children have left home before splitting up, to protect them from the fallout. Women are also likely to be back in the workforce, putting them in a more independent financial position. The median age for women who get divorced is now 42 (compared to 39 in 2001) and for men it is 45 (compared to 42).

“There is less stigma attached [to divorce] than when they got married, there are no concerns about the impact on the children, and there are less concerns about the financial difficulties they face,” Dr Qu said.

When parents do separate, only 6 per cent of children under 17 spend their time equally with both mother and father. Three in 10 children see their non-resident parent daily or weekly, but an equal proportion sees that parent less than once a year or never.

Half of all children whose parents are separated do not spend any nights at their non-resident parent’s house. Dr Qu said many of these children were either too little to stay away from home, or older teenagers who preferred to spend time with their friends.

Secret Phone Recordings Justified to Protect a “Legitimate Lawful Interest”


In 2012, former Perth barrister Lloyd Rayney was found not-guilty in the August 2007 murder of his wife, WA Supreme Court Registrar Corryn Rayney.

Although many remain unconvinced of his innocence, the as-yet un-resolved issue of his secret recordings of his wife’s phone conversations is still making its way through the system.

His reasoning for needing to record his wife’s phone conversations remains far-fetched, but it has been sufficient it seems given that midway through a subsequent trial on illegal phone tapping, the case was thrown out, with the judge ruling Mr Rayney had no case to answer.

Rayney is now battling it out with the Legal Practice Board, where he is striving to regain his practicing certificate.

His practising certificate was taken from him because he was deemed to not be a fit and proper person to hold a practicing certificate, given that he engaged in these recordings without the knowledge or consent of those being taped.

His justification for the recordings, he believed it was legal to record conversations without consent – and when one was not party to them – to protect a “legitimate lawful interest“.

Another prominent Australian who is also using the defence of “legitimate lawful interest” to justify his countless of hours of phone recordings, many of which are extremely damning on him regardless of whether the recordings themselves are deemed to be lawful or not.

Fair Work Commission vice president Michael Lawler recently revealed he has been covertly recording phone conversations with his boss.

“It’s become necessary these last four years to assemble evidence,” he told the ABC’s Four Corners program.

“I was a specialist fraud prosecutor; I understand the importance of evidence and maintaining it.

“I’ve been assembling evidence with great care and effort for four years now.”

HC spoke to Alan McDonald, managing director of law firm McDonald Murholme – where secret workplace recordings are a topic commonly brought to the firm’s attention.

According to McDonald, Lawler’s intentions legitimise his actions.

“It is legitimate to record conversations to be used to protect oneself later, which is clearly the advice and opinion of Vice President Lawler,” he said.

“By having the recording, it provides first class evidence so people can focus on the real issue.

“Judges are not troubled by the issue of who to believe in an oral conversation because it is recorded.

He added that everyone benefits when evidence is clear and unambiguous, as it is in a recording.

“It also allows the conflicting party to respond knowing precisely what the allegation is,” McDonald said.

McDonald also said that Ross – whose conversations were recorded by Lawler – can provide a response, if he wishes to do so, to the allegation that the secret tape recordings are in stark contrast to his public statements.

“One would expect that President Ross would make a detailed response without the need for a costly public inquiry or Royal Commission to investigate what is really going in the Fair Work Commission,” McDonald said.

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