Senator Lionel Murphy introduced his Family Law Bill into the Senate as a replacement for the Matrimonial Causes Act. Senator Murphy introduced the Bill with the words “Mr President, this measure is a most important social reform. It will affect the lives of many.” (Hansard 13.12.73)

The Family Law Act was passed in December 1975 and a look at the table below will show just how many Australian families have been affected.

Year Marriages Divorces Divorce Rate % Average length       of Marriages
1971 117,637 N/A   N/A
1973 N/A 16,226   N/A
1974 110,673 17,744 16.03 N/A
1975 N/A 24,307   11.8 years
1984 108,655 43,124 39.69 10.6
1985 115,493 39,830 34.49 10.6
1991 113,869 45,630 40.07 10.3
1992 114,752 45,665 39.79 10.5
1993 113,255 48,324 42.67 10.7
1994 111,174 48,256 43.40 10.9
1995 109,386 49,666 45.40 11.0
1996 106,100 52,500 49.48 11.0

Obviously, there are other factors contributing to the rising divorce figures than just the “no-fault” divorce laws. Just as there are other factors contributing to the lessening in popularity of marriage. The following table shows quite clearly countries embracing a “no fault” divorce policy have substantially higher rates of divorce. Perhaps we can learn something from this?

Country Divorce Rate % Source
Australia 49.48 ABS 1996 Stats
New Zealand 42.0 1995 stats
Canada 43.0 BBC Radio
Great Britain 66.0 SBS TV 7 Days Program
U.S.A. 65.0 Time Magazine March 1966
Sweden 52.0 BBC Radio
U.S.S.R. 72.0 1994 stats
Germany 10.0 1995 stats

Germany has not embraced “no fault divorce” Note the level of divorce in that country.

The Australian Family Court claims only 5% of cases come before a Judge. According to Justice John Faulks (Bulletin 18.10.94) “Just because 95% of people who file Custody or Property don’t end up before a judge does not mean that they like what they end up with; a settlement simply means that ‘one party has prevailed’. Or that one party has given up. The fact that people have reached and agreement might simply mean that they are tired.”

Far more likely is ‘they have run out of money’ and can no longer afford to pursue their action before the court when the respondent is in possession of a seemingly never-ending flow of taxpayers dollars via Legal Aid; or they decide to withdraw to prevent their children being used as the prize awarded to the winner!

Of the 5% of custody cases decided by the Family Court, 31% are in favour of the father and a further 8% are allocated as split, joint or other (another custodian) decisions. (Sophy Bordow 1992) In the situation of Consent Orders the study shows 79% custody is with the mother, 18% father and split 3%.

Much more to follow when I’m able to collate the vast amount of info and put it on-line. Any offers of assistance would be greatly appreciated – Ed.