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Divorces granted in Canada have dropped sharply, new Statistics Canada report shows

Canada granted fewer divorces last year than any year since 1973
Statistics Canada says public health measures introduced during the pandemic were likely important drivers of the relatively low number of divorces in 2020. Pixabay photo

The number of divorces granted in Canada in 2020 was the lowest seen since 1973, Statistics Canada said in a report issued Wednesday, noting that barriers to accessing court services during the pandemic likely contributed to the decline.

The agency said there were 42,933 divorces granted in 2020, a “sharp decrease” from 56,937 divorces recorded a year earlier. It said divorces had been decreasing generally over many years but 2020’s figure was the lowest in decades.

Lockdowns in 2020 due to COVID-19, which slowed court proceedings and led to less urgent cases being adjourned, likely contributed to the lower figure, it said.

“Public health measures introduced during the pandemic were likely important drivers of the relatively low number of divorces recorded in 2020,” Statistics Canada said in the report.

Statistics Canada also said growing “selectivity of marriage” among younger adults may have contributed to the decrease in divorces.

“The married population is getting older because of the general population aging, but also because younger generations of Canadians are choosing common-law unions more often,” the agency wrote.

When people do get married, they do so at an older age than generations before and older adults have lower divorce rates than younger adults, the agency said.

Statistics Canada also noted that the divorce statistics do not account for separations, which commonly happen before a couple files for divorce. There are married couples who separate and never file for divorce, the agency said.

For couples who do choose divorce, the agency said it is becoming more likely that the decision is mutual — almost one-third of divorces are now filed jointly by both spouses.

The option to file jointly for divorce was established in 1986 with the revision of the Divorce Act. Since this revision, the number of joint applications has increased from 4 per cent in 1987 to 31 per cent in 2020.

— Gabby Calugay-Casuga, The Canadian Press

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