Vital Statistics - Divorce Database

Detailed information for 2008





Record number:


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

Data release - July 13, 2011 (2008 is the last year for which these data were collected.)


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

The data are used to calculate basic indicators (such as counts and rates) on divorces occurring in Canada. Information from this database is also used in the calculation of statistics, such as duration-specific divorce rates.

Pursuant to the Divorce Act of 1968, a Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) was established within the Department of Justice Canada. Detailed data and tabulations on divorce have been available from Statistics Canada since 1969 and these have been presented in the annual reports beginning with the year 1972.

Divorce statistics are classified by location (province or territory) of the court in which the divorce proceeding was registered. Nunavut came into being officially as a Territory of Canada on April 1, 1999, however, there was no divorce court established in Nunavut until 2000. The name Northwest Territories applies to a Territory with different geographic boundaries before and as of April 1, 1999.

Under the Divorce Act of 1985, the grounds for divorce changed from the previous Divorce Act of 1968. Marriage breakdown became the only grounds for divorce, and the evidence for marriage breakdown was reduced to separation for at least one year, adultery, physical cruelty, or mental cruelty. In cases where couples file a joint application for divorce, the only valid category is separation for at least one year.

Under the Divorce Act of 1968, there were several marital offences (adultery; physical cruelty; mental cruelty; sodomy; bestiality; rape; homosexual act; and subsequent marriage) and reasons for marriage breakdown (addiction to alcohol; separation for not less than 3 years; desertion by petitioner not less than 5 years; imprisonment for aggregate period of not less than 3 years; imprisonment for not less than 2 years, sentence of death, or sentences of 10 years or more; addiction to narcotics; whereabouts of spouse unknown; non-consummation), one or more of which constituted grounds for divorce.

Reference period: Calendar year

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


  • Divorce and separation
  • Families, households and housing

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The conceptual universe of the Divorce database is divorces of Canadian residents anywhere in the world.

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

The actual (survey) population of the Divorce database is divorces of Canadian and non-Canadian residents in Canada (while the applicant spouse must reside in Canada, the other spouse may reside outside Canada).

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


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

No sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are extracted from administrative files.

The registration of divorce proceedings is the responsibility of the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) of the Department of Justice Canada. The impetus for a central divorce registry arose from the need to eliminate duplicate divorce proceedings.

The application form for a divorce is completed by the husband, the wife, or both spouses jointly and filed with a court. The registrar of the court sends the application to the CRDP, which maintains a record of pending divorce proceedings.

Annually, the CRDP sends machine-readable data relating to cases of completed divorce proceedings to the Health Statistics Division at Statistics Canada. Statistics Canada processes the data to produce and disseminate a set of standard tables.

Some of the main statistical data items included in the Divorce Database are:

- Court where divorce was registered
- Date the divorce application was filed
- Applicant for divorce
- Date of birth
- Previous marital status
- Date of marriage
- Reason for marriage breakdown
- Effective date of divorce.

Error detection

The CRDP carries out some edits (presence of the data, validation of code ranges, and data consistency) before transmitting their data, which is supplied in machine-readable format to Statistics Canada. Similar edits are applied to the data by Statistics Canada to ascertain the completeness and quality of the data. The resulting queries are sent back to the CRDP for comment or resolution.


This administrative survey does not produce estimates

Quality evaluation

Upon completion of the annual national divorce data base (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 data base; 2) sending the verification tables to the CRDP for their review and approval; 3) checking for internal consistencies, for example, running frequencies and looking for outliers on certain variables; and 4) 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.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy


Since divorce is a judicial process, reporting is virtually complete. Undercoverage is thought to be minimal. Undercoverage may occur because of late registration, when divorces are registered by local courts, but the paperwork is not forwarded to the CRDP. Undercoverage may also occur when one spouse resides outside Canada; because a divorce applicant must be resident in the jurisdiction in which he/she applies for divorce, some divorces of Canadian residents occur outside Canada when the former spouse applies for and obtains a divorce in another country.

Statistics based on divorce data do not necessarily provide an accurate index of marital dissolution, since they are based only on unions that have been legally contracted and legally terminated by divorce. Separations of married partners are not registered events in Canada unless the separation ends in divorce. Neither are formations of common-law unions registered in Canada; such unions comprise a significant proportion of unions in Canada, to varying degrees from one province or territory to another. Persons in common-law relationships are not at risk for divorce from such unions since no legal procedure is required to dissolve such unions. Data should be used with caution when comparing between regions as consensual unions may represent a large proportion of all unions in some regions.

Over-coverage from duplicate records is minimal to none. Duplicate divorce registrations are identified by the CRDP as an essential part of their registry processing. At Statistics Canada, a further check ensures that no duplicate registration numbers are in the database.

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