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Divorce Stats in Canada


“I’ve never walked out from a court session with him disappointed…

Barry really saved my life and my son in that situation”

Divorce Stats

Marriage and family are fundamental institutions anywhere in the world. However, there have been many changes in a short time. In Canada, the nuclear family is no longer the dominant vital statistic. Many are in common-law unions, many without children, and many have been divorced or separated more than once.

Marriage and divorce are inextricably linked, so divorce stats in Canada tie in with marriage stats. According to Statistics Canada, divorce is on the decline in Canada. It has been falling steadily since 1991, revealing a sharp decrease from 2019 to 2020.

There has also been a drop in the number of marriages as more people choose to live as common-law partners. However, that does not fully explain the fall in divorce rates among Canadians. This article will attempt to shine some light on this situation through numbers.


Divorce in Canada

Getting a divorce in Canada has become easier since Parliament passed the Divorce Act (Act) in 1968. Before that, petitioners had to go to the Parliament of Canada. They would request a private Act of Divorce because of a matrimonial offence.

Additionally, you had to post a notice of your intent to petition in the Canada Gazette and two local papers for six months. Even then, there was no assurance you would get it. No wonder the number of persons granted a divorce was few and far between.

The Divorce Act established a more streamlined process that did not involve acts of Parliament. That made it easier, more affordable, and much more accessible to many people.

Changes in the Act in 1986 made it even easier. It reduced the mandatory separation period from three years to one year. Amendments to the Act stipulated that the only grounds for divorce is marriage breakdown, essentially making a Canadian divorce a no-fault one.

Marriage breakdown means many things. From the court’s perspective, you can show your marriage is not working if you can prove the following:

  • You have been living apart and separate from your spouse for at least one year
  • Physical or mental cruelty
  • Adultery

However, not everyone can apply for a divorce in Canada. You must be legally married in Canada or in a country where Canada recognizes the marriage as legal.

At least one of you must be a resident of the province or territory where you applied for a divorce. For example, if you are in Toronto, you must apply to an Ontario courthouse. Finally, there must be proof of the breakdown in a marriage.

If you satisfy all these requirements, you may apply for divorce. The application forms for divorce cases are available online or in the courthouse. In some provinces, you may even be able to get the relevant forms in a bookstore. Of course, getting the proper forms and filling them out correctly might be more challenging than you think. You need a family law lawyer to help you.

There are some exceptions to the residency requirements under the Civil Marriage Act. These apply if you satisfy two conditions:

  • You married in Canada
  • The country where you or your spouse currently live does not recognize the legality of your marriage

In this case, you can apply with the Superior Court in the province or territory where you married for a divorce. It would help if you got advice from a divorce lawyer in Toronto or a relevant area about what you need to do.

Divorce in Canada remains a complex and often painful process despite improvements to Canadian laws. Yet enough Canadians go through with it to put the country on the map.

Canada has a crude divorce rate of 2.1 (out of 1000 people), ranking 26th among 107 countries surveyed. The figure for the divorce rate for married couples is 5.6 in 2020. There has even been a rise in grey divorce, where spouses are over 50.

Also check: Served With Divorce Papers? What To Do Next

The Common Reasons for Divorces in Canada

Unfortunately, Statistics Canada ceased documenting the grounds for divorce of the married population in Canada after 2005. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that 94.78% (67,526) of divorce cases in Canada were no-fault cases. That means married couples lived apart for at least one year to demonstrate marital breakdown. About 3% (2,218) cited adultery, 1.2% (878) cited mental cruelty, and 0.8% (619) cited physical cruelty as the cause.

The figures are slightly different in Ontario. It clocked in at 98.7% for separation, 0.7% for adultery, 0.2% for physical cruelty, and 0.19% for mental cruelty. 

Alberta is slightly closer to the overall figures for Canada. The survey showed 97.5% separation, 1.1% adultery, 0.5% physical cruelty, and 0.7% mental cruelty.

A Bank of Montreal poll in 2014 indicated more specific reasons for the marital breakdown, with some overlap. It identified money issues (68%), infidelity (60%), and family disagreements (36%) as the top causes of divorce among Canadians. This may explain why spousal support tends to be a point of contention in divorce cases. The poll shows that 37% of men and 36% of women think their spouses overspend.

Married couples of different age groups may have specific reasons for deciding they want to call it quits. People seeking professional help after divorce cited the following:

  • Lack of compatibility, different values, no common interests
  • Differing or conflicting attitudes toward money (earning, spending, saving, and sharing)
  • Unproductive arguing, dishonesty, withdrawal, or stonewalling
  • Constant conflict without resolution, often due to lack of equality, power struggles, lack of role clarity
  • Infidelity
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Got married too young or for the wrong reasons
  • Physical, verbal, emotional, or financial abuse
  • Addiction
  • Conflict with or intrusion by in-laws
  • Loss of identity
  • Mental or physical illness or disability


Canadian Divorce Statistics

Despite the lack of recent and reliable research on the reasons for divorce, Statistics Canada has collected updated divorce statistics for 2021. Below are some of the highlights of these statistics.


Number of divorced people in Canada

According to Statistics Canada, there were 38,246,108 people in Canada over the age of 15 in 2021. About 2.74 million had been granted a divorce in Canada and had not remarried. That figure includes those living in common-law unions. The increase over 2020 is about 1.03%, or 28,425. The rise has been slow but steady since 2000, when there were about 1.88 million divorced people in Canada.

If you discount common-law couples, the 2021 figure drops to 1,986,825, and the increase over 2020 becomes 1.15%. The increase from 2017 is 5.45%. 

Meanwhile, the number of married people has also been increasing but much slower. Between 2017 and 2021, the increase has been a mere 2.39%. That indicates that while divorce rates may decline, more people are getting divorced than getting married.

Number of divorces in Canada, 2021

Statistics Canada provided an overview of Canadian divorces from 1970 to 2020, 50 years’ worth of numbers. By their count, Canadian courts granted 42,933 divorces in 2020. That might seem a lot if you think about how much goes into the court proceedings. 

However, that number dropped sharply from 2019, when 56,937 divorces went through. That 25% or so decline year-to-year is the largest since 1968. Does that mean people are working harder on their marriages to avoid divorce? Well, probably not.

The average duration of the divorce process in 2020 is 5.8 months, but that does not include the mandatory one-year separation. That means couples who finalized their divorces in mid-2020 started their separation period in 2019. They could only apply for divorce in mid-2020, smack in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many couples likely postponed applying for divorce because they had difficulty accessing court services.

Another factor is that fewer couples married in the last decade. Add to that the fact that the average duration of marriage in Canada is 15.3 years. The number of divorces granted will likely pick up in a few years. 

Divorce Rates by Age Group

Statistics Canada compiled specific divorce rates in Canada according to age group from 2016 to 2020. The divorce rate in this context is the number of people who divorced in a given year divided by the married population as of July 1 of the same year. It shows two trends: the increase in grey divorce and the decrease in divorce among couples under 50.

Divorce Rates by Age Group
Source: Statistics Canada

As you can see, the divorce rates are consistently highest for the age group 40 to 44. The lowest rates are from under 20 to 20-24 and 50 and older. That stands to reason as the average age at marriage is about 30, and the average age at divorce is 45.

However, the divorce rates for age groups 50 to 64 are declining slower than in younger age groups. For example, the decline for the age group 40-44 from 2016 to 2020 is 36%. The decrease for the age group 55-59 for the same period is 27.7%.

These numbers indicate that fewer Canadians are divorcing in 2020 than in 2016. However, more people over 50 are divorcing relative to younger couples. One reason may be that people tend to marry at a later age. Another reason is more people across age groups are in common-law relationships.

These numbers are for Canada overall. When looking at the divorce rate per province and territory, the downward trend remains from 2016 to 2020. However, there are significant differences. Yukon has the highest divorce rate at 13 per 1,000 married persons. The lowest is Nunavut, with 2 per 1,000 married persons. Interestingly, Ontario sees a massive drop in divorce rates from 2019 (7.1) to 2020 (4.4).

Divorce Rates by Gender

The Act removed the double standards under the English Matrimonial Causes Act for grounds for divorce. For provinces following English law, husbands could sue for divorce for adultery. However, wives would have to allege adultery together with other grounds. Under the Act, the grounds for divorce applied equally to men and women. 

Statistics show women had a higher divorce rate than men (8.6 to 8.4 per 1,000 married persons) in 2017. However, the variation by age group is telling.

The rate for those under age 20 is 3 for women and 4.1 for men. The average rate for age groups 20 to 34 is 11.4 for men and 13.27 for women. It then swings the other way for people over 50, where the rate for men is consistently higher than for women.

These numbers show that more women than men tend to get divorce applications when they are younger. More men tend to do it later in life. 

However, these statistics only consider people who are married and divorced. They do not include those who are separated and were in common-law relationships.

When including these demographics, separation, and divorce are more common among married older women than men. On the other hand, separation in common-law relationships is more common among older men than women.

separation, and divorce are more common among married older women than men
Source: Statistics Canada


New Relationships After Divorce or Separation

People aged 35 to 64 in 2017 don’t wait long after divorce or separation to embark on a new relationship. For men, it’s 4.5 years. For women, it’s 4.8 years. More than a quarter (26%) in a marriage or common-law union is in their second or subsequent relationship. That’s 2.86 million out of 11 million people.

Of the 2.6 million people in a subsequent relationship, 36% are common-law. Forty-six percent are married but started as common-law partners. Only 18% went into marriage without embarking on a common-law union.

The good news is people in subsequent relationships tend to last more than a decade together. About half (56%) married couples and nearly one-third (32%) common-law partners have children with their current partner.

Interestingly, 31% of people who remarry or live common-law after separation or divorce are Canadian-born. That’s twice more than foreign-born people (13%). Quebec residents are more likely (36%) to form subsequent relationships than in other provinces. In Ontario, it’s just 19%.

Costs of Divorce, 2021

The Canadian Lawyer magazine publishes an annual survey of lawyer fees in Canada. The 2021 survey for family law cases shows that the national average cost for an uncontested divorce is $1,860. A contested divorce costs $20,625. If there is a trial, additional fees range from $19,087 to $43,481, depending on the length of the trial.

Sometimes, a separation agreement may be necessary during the mandatory one-year separation for divorce cases. The cost ranges from $5,463 to$7,014, depending on whether there are children. Other services include child custody and support agreements ($2,236), spousal support agreements ($6,274), and Motion to Change/variation applications ($6,863). These are national averages. The costs will vary by location and size of the firm. National firms tend to be more expensive than local firms. Ontario tends to be more costly than other areas. However, family law firms such as Nussbaum Law believe everybody has the right to affordable legal representation.

Did you know?

“You can sign a postnuptial contract. This is essentially a prenuptial agreement, except that you and your spouse formalize the terms of your contract after marriage.”

Divorce in Canada Key Takeaways

Divorce statistics in Canada paint an interesting picture of the state of marriage, divorce, and family relationships over the years. Divorce is on the decline, but so is marriage. Common-law unions are becoming more prevalent among younger adults, and many marry at a later age.

Despite the high cost of divorce and separation, a significant number of persons start a new relationship within five years. While many stay together for a decade or more, grey divorce is rising.

Divorce statistics show that relationships are complex. It takes two people working together to iron out their differences to avoid a marriage breakdown. Even then, it might not be enough.

The same applies to those in common-law unions. There is no shortcut to making a relationship work. You often see no option but to exit an unhappy or toxic situation despite your best efforts.

If that happens, you want to ensure you protect your rights and those of your children, if you have any. Family law can be complicated and requires the guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer.

Cost is always a consideration when dealing with legal matters. However, you could lose much more if you don’t proceed with your divorce or separation properly. The divorce lawyers at Nussbaum Law will work with you to resolve your legal issues at a reasonable rate.

Also check: Divorce Lawyers in Vaughan

Are You Dealing with a Divorce Case? Contact Nussbaum Law Today!

Divorce and separation are much more complex issues than marriage. In most cases, you have been together long enough to have had children and acquired assets as a couple. As such, you need a family law lawyer by your side during divorce proceedings.

Nussbaum Law can give you legal advice, handle the paperwork, and represent you in court if necessary. We have many years of experience handling divorce, separation, and other areas of family law.

If you need a champion, we are only a phone call away. Contact Nussbaum Law today!

A successful marriage needs both partners to work hard on their relationship. Get legal advice at the Nussbaum Law firm if your relationship is bound to break and you need guidance through a divorce.

FAQs on Divorce Stats in Canada

Who can sue for divorce in Canada?

Anyone legally married in Canada or in a country where Canada recognizes the marriage can apply for a divorce. However, the person suing for divorce in a province or territory must be a resident of that province or territory. Additionally, the applicant must provide acceptable proof of marriage breakdowns such as separation, adultery, mental cruelty, or physical abuse.

Can you get a divorce in Canada if only one partner wants it?

Yes. If you apply for a divorce, that is an indication of marital breakdown. However, you must complete a one-year separation period before applying for divorce unless you can prove physical or mental cruelty.

Can you apply for a divorce in Canada if you are not a citizen?

Yes. You can sue for a divorce if you have been a resident of Canada for at least a year. However, you must have been married in Canada or a country where Canada recognizes the legality of the marriage.



Did You Know

Most abusers’ behaviour stems from feelings of privilege and entitlement and learned attitudes.

These can be extremely challenging to change. They must be deeply committed to making lasting changes to their behaviour. 

Published On:August 16, 2022