Increased likelihood of divorce after twenty years

Date: Jan 12, 2015

A report released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) reveals that the proportion of Australian couples divorcing after twenty or more years of marriage has reached unprecedented heights.

The report, titled Working Out Relationships, demonstrates that the number of marriages ending after twenty years increased dramatically between 1990 and 2011, from 13 per cent to 28 per cent.

Professor Alan Hayes, who is AIFS' director, proposes a number of reasons for this rise.

He believes that attitudes towards remaining in a marriage when one or both partners are unhappy have changed drastically in the last two decades.

"There is far less social stigma today about ending a marriage," Mr Haynes said.

He also revealed that because women are becoming less and less reliant on men to support themselves financially, they now have the means to end a marriage that is not working out.

Interestingly, these divorce statistics seem to confirm a trend for couples choosing to wait until children are above 18 and self sufficient before starting the divorce process.

"It is not surprising that the proportion of divorces involving children under 18 years has declined over the last few decades," said Mr Haynes. Married parents are now more inclined to prioritise the financial and emotional needs of their children above that of their relationship. Once their children reach adulthood these couples then reassess their marriage.

Dr. Lixia Qu, AIFS' senior research fellow, also noted the report shows that the number of people entering into partnerships such as marriage is on the decline, especially among the middle-aged population.

There is also "increasing diversity in some life course transitions", such as the age at which people get married or start having children.

The overall conclusion of Working Out Relationships is that "family trends can change in unexpected ways". Happy marriages can easily become unhappy ones, and a relationship that was working one day might result in divorce on the next.

Going through a divorce or some form of separation can be a difficult time for any couple, no matter how long they have been together.

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