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Tuesday, May 4, 2004


2001 and 2002

Fewer Canadian couples are getting divorced, and those who do are untying the knot at a much later age, according to data collected by the federal justice department.

After three consecutive years of growth, the number of divorces has dropped for two years in a row. In 2002, a total of 70,155 couples had a divorce finalized, down 1.3% from 2001 and 1.4% from 2000.

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The number of divorces is now 11.2% below the most recent high of about 79,000 in 1992 and 27.1% below the all-time peak of about 96,000 divorces in 1987.

A downward trend was also seen in marriages throughout the 1990s. Although the number of marriages rose in 1999 and 2000, the number of couples who got married in Canada in 2001 declined sharply.

The most recent declines in the number of divorces occurred despite increases in the population. As a result, the crude divorce rate fell 3.2% between 2000 and 2002. In 2002, there were 223.7 divorces for every 100,000 people in the population, compared with 231.2 in 2000.

The number of divorces fell in nine of the provinces and territories between 2000 and 2002, particularly in New Brunswick, where the decline was 14.9%, and in Saskatchewan, where it was 10.7%. Divorces were up in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and the Yukon.

Divorces occurring at a later age

Each year for the last 17 years, men and women have been getting divorced at a later age.

Since 1986, the average age at divorce has increased by 4.1 years for men and by 4.2 years for women. In 2002, the average age at divorce was 43.1 for men and 40.5 for women.

Marriage data over the last few decades have shown increases in the average age men and women are getting married.

On average, men who divorced in 2002 were married at the age of 28.9, while women had married at the age of 26.3.

Between 1986 and 2002, the average age of marriage for individuals who divorced rose by 2.9 years for both men and women.

Divorce rate varies with length of marriage

Marriage stability can be assessed using divorce rates based on years of marriage. The proportion of marriages expected to end in divorce by the 30th wedding anniversary was 37.9% in 2001 and 37.6% in 2002. These rates hardly differed from the proportion of 37.7% in 2000.

The divorce rate in both 2001 and 2002 varied greatly depending on how long couples were married.

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Before the first anniversary of marriage, there was less than one divorce for every 1,000 marriages in 2002. After the first anniversary, the divorce rate was 4.3 divorces per 1,000 marriages.

This increased to 18.0 divorces after the second anniversary, 25.0 divorces after the third, up to the peak of 25.7 after the fourth anniversary.

The risk of divorce decreased slowly for each additional year of marriage after the fourth. The majority (60%) of divorces in 2001 and 2002 were of couples married for fewer than 15 years.

Married couples in Newfoundland and Labrador are the least likely to divorce, with 2002 figures showing 21.8% of marriages expected to end in divorce within 30 years of marriage.

In contrast, 47.6% of couples in Quebec are expected to divorce within this time span. Alberta (41.9%), British Columbia (41.0%) and the Yukon (43.4%) also experienced divorce rates higher than the national average.

For couples divorcing in 2002, the average duration of marriage was 14.2 years, up 0.2 years from 2000 and 1.4 from 1993.

Custody granted through court proceedings in about 3 in 10 divorces

Custody of dependents, the vast majority of whom are children aged 18 and under, was granted through court proceedings in 29% of 2001 divorces and 28% of 2002 divorces.

In the remaining divorces, couples arrived at custody arrangements outside the divorce proceedings, or they did not have dependents. The number of dependents in these divorces is not available.

Of the 35,000 dependents for whom custody was determined through divorce proceedings in 2002, the custody of 49.5% was awarded to the wife. This is the first time ever that custody was awarded to the wife for less than half of dependents.

The proportion of dependents awarded to the wife has declined steadily since 1988, when custody of 75.8% of dependents was awarded to the wife only.

In contrast, custody of 41.8% of dependents was awarded to the husband and wife jointly in 2002, continuing a 16-year trend of steady increases in joint custody arrangements. Under a joint custody arrangement, dependents do not necessarily spend equal amounts of their time with each parent.

Custody was awarded to the husband for 8.5% of dependents in 2002, down from 9.1% in 2000 and from a high of 15% in 1986.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3235.

The shelf tables Divorces, 2001 and 2002 (84F0213XPB, $22) are now available.

For general information or to order custom tabulations, contact Client Custom Services (613-951-1746; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Patricia Tully (613-951-1759; or Brent Day (613-951-4280;, Health Statistics Division.

  2000 2001 2002 2000 to 2002
  number % change
Canada 71,144 71,110 70,155 -1.4
Newfoundland and Labrador 913 755 842 -7.8
Prince Edward Island 272 246 258 -5.1
Nova Scotia 2,054 1,945 1,990 -3.1
New Brunswick 1,717 1,570 1,461 -14.9
Quebec 17,054 17,094 16,499 -3.3
Ontario 26,148 26,516 26,170 0.1
Manitoba 2,430 2,480 2,396 -1.4
Saskatchewan 2,194 1,955 1,959 -10.7
Alberta 8,176 8,252 8,291 1.4
British Columbia 10,017 10,115 10,125 1.1
Yukon 68 91 90 32.4
Northwest Territories 94 83 68 -27.7
Nunavut 7 8 6 -14.3

Total divorce rate, by the 30th wedding anniversary
  2000 2001 2002 2000 to 2002
  per 100 marriages increase/decrease
Canada 37.7 37.9 37.6 -0.1
Newfoundland and Labrador 22.9 19.6 21.8 -1.1
Prince Edward Island 26.9 22.9 25.2 -1.7
Nova Scotia 30.4 28.9 30.4 0.0
New Brunswick 31.9 29.1 27.2 -4.7
Quebec 47.4 48.3 47.6 0.2
Ontario 34.6 35.3 34.9 0.3
Manitoba 30.3 31.1 30.3 0.0
Saskatchewan 31.4 28.4 28.7 -2.7
Alberta 41.5 41.9 41.9 0.4
British Columbia 40.6 41.0 41.0 0.4
Yukon 33.6 44.1 43.4 9.8
Northwest Territories and Nunavut1 40.7 37.1 31.2 -9.5
1.The rates for Northwest Territories and Nunavut have been combined in this table because marriage and divorce data are not available for these territories separately for the 30-year period required for the calculation of the total divorce rate.

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Date Modified: 2004-05-04 Important Notices