May 06, 2019

Marriage and divorce are both falling out of favour

The marriage rate in New Zealand has dropped by more than half in the last 30 years, continuing a downhill trend. While the number of marriages has only decreased 11 percent overall in that time, the rate has not kept up with the rising population.

In 1988 there were 23 marriages per 1,000 eligible people, while in 2018 the rate was less than half that figure at just 10.8. The marriage rate includes all marriages and civil unions.

Of the 20,949 marriages and civil unions registered to New Zealand residents, 510 were same-sex marriages or civil unions. An additional 3,120 marriages or civil unions were registered to overseas residents, 384 of which were same-sex marriages or civil unions.

The number of same-sex marriages registered to overseas residents decreased from 495 in 2017 to 375 in 2018. This coincides with the introduction of same-sex marriages in Australia in 2017. The introduction of same-sex marriages in August 2013 has impacted the number of civil unions. There were just 60 civil unions per annum from 2014 after the legislation was passed down from an average of around 300 per year.

While marriage is far less common than 30 years ago, divorce is also less common. The divorce rate in 2018 was 7.7 per 1,000 marriages and civil unions, down from a rate of 8.4 in 2017. The decrease in the divorce rate coincides with a fall in the number of children affected by divorce.

Since 1988, the median age of marriage and civil union has risen from 27.9 to 32.3 years for men, and 25.5 to 30.7 years for women. The median age for divorce has also increased since 1998 from 37.9 years for women and 40.5 years for men, to 44.4 years and 46.8 respectively.

Marriage is big business with the average wedding in New Zealand is commonly estimated to cost around $35,000, while the median is more likely around $20,000 according to some wedding websites. Divorce can be equally expensive – while the Dissolution Order fee is $211.50, legal costs can escalate if the process is lengthy or not amicable.