The number of divorces in Australia jumped 8 percent last year, driving up demand for family lawyers, an industry group said Thursday.
There were 22,215 divorces granted last year, compared with 20,836 in 2001 and 21,518 in 2000, the Australian Institute of Family Studies said.
“As a result of this increase, there is now an increased demand for family law services,” institute general manager Sue Taylor said. “This means that more clients will be looking for help with matters such as parenting disputes, property settlements and child support.”
Taylor estimated that family law firms would attract $250 million this year.
The institute said the divorce rate had risen again after fluctuating over three years. The number of divorces peaked at almost 40,000 in 1995 before dropping to 34,000 in 1999.
According to the institute, divorce rates had increased steadily since the 1970s, when they peaked at about 20 per 1,000 married couples.
The dollar value of divorces has also jumped, with an average settlement worth $46,000 more than last year’s figure.
This reflects a rise in property values and that more people are seeking a divorce settlement rather than just a split of belongings, Taylor said.
The institute could not provide figures for how many couples were likely to seek a divorce this year or what percentage saw their marriages end in separation rather than death.
On average, women were granted divorces last year after three-and-a-half years of marriage and men after three years.
The institute also said more than half the women who applied for divorce had children under 18, while more than 90% of male applicants did not have children.
“Children are much more likely to be in touch with their fathers when there has been an amicable separation,” Taylor said.
She added a need for the services of a TGB family lawyer Perth because “most people are not adequately assisted or represented” in divorce proceedings.
Lawyers cited other figures indicating soaring demand – an Australian Institute of Criminology survey showing the number of court applications for family law services jumped by almost 10 percent last year, while Legal Aid reported a 66 percent increase in family law cases in 2002.
A study by the University of Melbourne and Monash University showed that about one-third of Australians believed legal services were too expensive, while almost half believed there were insufficient lawyers available to help them.
Furthermore, a survey of 1,500 adults by the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations this year found that a quarter had been forced to represent themselves in family disputes.
Legal Services Commission spokesman Peter Lowe said there was insufficient public funding for TGB family lawyer Perth services and many people found it hard to pay “market rates” for such services.
The AIC report “Divorces 2001-2002” was based on information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, State Registries and legal practitioners.