Risk of divorce declines over time: StatsCan

May 4, 2004

OTTAWA (CP) - Getting married? Count to five. Couples who make it to their fifth year of marriage are less likely to break up, figures from Statistics Canada indicate.

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

That went up to 18 per 1,000 after the second anniversary, 25 after the third and peaked at 25.7 after the fourth.

After that, the risk of divorce decreased slowly for each additional year of marriage.

Statistics Canada also said that fewer couples untied the knot in 2002, and they did it 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."

On the other hand, couples have been waiting longer to get married, the agency noted. And in 2001, the number of couples who got married declined sharply.

After three consecutive years of growth, the number of divorces dropped in 2002 and 2001.

"In 2002, a total of 70,155 couples had a divorce finalized, down 1.3 per cent from 2001 and 1.4 per cent from 2000.

Both men and women waited longer before divorce.

"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."

The number of divorces in 2002 was 11.2 per cent below the most recent high of about 79,000 in 1992 and 27.1 per cent below the all-time peak of about 96,000 divorces in 1987, the agency said.

Couples in Newfoundland and Labrador were least likely to divorce, with 2002 figures showing 21.8 per cent of marriages expected to end within 30 years of marriage.

In contrast, 47.6 per cent of couples in Quebec were expected to divorce within this time. In Alberta, 41.9 per cent; British Columbia, 41 per cent; Yukon, 43.4 per cent also experienced divorce rates higher than the national average of 37.6 per cent.

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

"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 per cent, and in Saskatchewan, where it was 10.7 per cent. Divorces were up in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Yukon."