Canadian Vital Statistics - Divorce Database

Detailed information for 2020





Record number:


This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information from the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) at the Department of Justice Canada on all pending or completed divorce proceedings in Canada.

Data release - March 9, 2022


The Canadian Vital Statistics - Divorce Database collects demographic information from the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) on all pending or completed divorce proceedings in Canada. The CRDP was established within the Department of Justice Canada pursuant to the Divorce Act of 1968. Its main objective is to eliminate duplicate divorce proceedings.

The CRDP data are used to calculate basic indicators on divorces occurring in Canada, such as counts and average ages. Information from this database is also combined with population estimates and marriages counts to calculate statistics such as the crude divorce rate and duration-specific divorce rates.

Detailed statistics and tabulations based on the CRDP data have been available from Statistics Canada since 1969.

Reference period: Calendar year

Collection period: Statistics Canada receives the divorce data file from the CRDP at the Department of Justice Canada in the months following the end of the reference year.


  • Divorce and separation
  • Families, households and housing
  • Population and demography

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population of the Divorce database is divorces of Canadian residents.

The actual (survey) population of the Divorce database is divorces of Canadian and non-Canadian residents that occur in Canada. In general, when applying for a divorce, the applicant spouse must reside in Canada but the other spouse may reside outside Canada. Both spouses may reside outside Canada when the divorce is later granted by the court.

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

This methodology does not apply.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are extracted from administrative files.

Since 1968, when the Divorce Act came into force, the registration of divorce proceedings is the responsibility of the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) within the Department of Justice Canada.

People seeking a divorce from their spouse must first complete a divorce application and file it with a court. The content of this application varies across provinces and territories. Prior to 1986, the application was completed by only one of the spouses. Since 1986, it can be completed jointly by both spouses.

Based on the information contained in the application, the registrar of the court then fills a standard form and sends it to the CRDP. The CRDP ensures that no other divorce proceedings have been initiated for the same marriage elsewhere in the country. If no duplicate proceeding is found, the CRDP informs the court that the proceeding is valid. Once the proceeding is complete, the court informs the CRDP of its disposition.

The information that the CRDP is mandated to collect from the court registrars to eliminate duplicates has changed over time. Currently, the main statistical data items included in the CRDP database are:
- Court where the divorce was registered
- Date the divorce application was filed
- Applicant (or joint applicants) for divorce
- Date of birth
- Sex
- Date of marriage
- Date the divorce was granted.

Data from the CRDP database are combined with population estimates and marriage counts to calculate a variety of divorce rates.

Error detection

The CRDP carries out several edits (looking for missing data, validation of code ranges, and data consistency) before transmitting their data to Statistics Canada. At Statistics Canada, an additional series of edits are completed to identify incoherent values. Dates are compared with one another to check whether they are in the expected order: for example, the date of marriage should always be earlier than the date of divorce. For the few records in which an error is detected, automatic and manual edits are used to identify which dates are more likely to be correct. Incoherent values are adjusted if possible or replaced with imputation.


Imputation is used to fill any missing date of birth, date of marriage, date of divorce application, date the divorce was granted or sex. In general, these imputations affect a very small number of records annually. Beginning in 2018, given the magnitude of missing sex values in Ontario, imputation of these values does not occur for that province.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Quality evaluation

Upon completion of the Divorce database (produced as described in the section Error Detection above), Statistics Canada carries out a series of quality checks that include: 1) producing a set of verification tables which consist of basic tabulations for the majority of variables in the database; 2) checking for internal consistencies, for example, running frequencies and looking for outliers on certain variables; and 3) comparing the most recent data year with past data years to detect any unusual or unexpected changes.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

All divorce counts are rounded.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Revisions are done on an occasional basis. In 2020, data for years 1970 to 2008 were revised using the current CRDP database (divorce counts) and the most current population estimates and marriage counts (used as denominators for divorce rates). Data for the years 2019 and 2020 are considered preliminary and divorce counts could be underestimated for those years.

Seasonal adjustment does not apply to this statistical program.

Data accuracy


Since divorce is a judicial process, reporting is virtually complete. Undercoverage is expected to be minimal. It may occur because of late registration, that is, when divorces are registered by local courts, but there is a delay in the paperwork reaching the CRDP. Undercoverage may also occur when one spouse resides outside Canada; because divorce applicants must reside in the jurisdiction in which they apply for divorce, some divorces of Canadian residents occur outside Canada when the former spouse applies for and obtains a divorce in another country.

Overcoverage from duplicate records is rare. Duplicate divorce registrations are identified by the CRDP as an essential part of their registry processing. A further check for duplicates is conducted by Statistics Canada.

Statistics based on divorce data do not provide an accurate index of union dissolution, since they are based only on unions that have been legally contracted (marriages) and terminated by divorce through the courts. In contrast to divorces, separations of married spouses and separations of common-law partners are not recorded by vital statistics in Canada. People in common-law relationships are not eligible for divorce from their partner since no legal procedure is required to dissolve such unions. Data should be used with caution when comparing between regions as common-law unions comprise a different proportion of unions in each province and territory.


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