Legal marital status of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on May 26, 2021.


Legal marital status refers to the marital status of the person under the law, not taking into account common-law unions. All persons aged less than 15 are considered as never married. Civil unions are included. Same-sex marriage has been legal in all provinces and territories of Canada since 2005.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programs.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard generally conforms to the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 3", 2017. As in this standard, the Principles define marital status as "the personal status of each individual in relation to the marriage laws or customs of the country" and recommend the following categories: single or never married; married; widowed and not remarried; divorced and not remarried; and, married but separated. Also, the Principles recommend that, where the number of persons whose only or most recent marriage was annulled is insignificant, the individuals in this group should be classified according to their marital status before the (annulled) marriage took place.

Unlike this standard, the UN recommends collecting data on marital status for persons of all ages rather than treating persons under 15 as single. However, they do recommend that, to permit international comparisons, tabulations distinguish individuals under 15 years of age from those 15 years of age or over.


Additional information


Relation to previous version

  • Legal marital status of person May 26, 2021 to current

    The definition of legal marital status has been slightly modified. The terminology used in the classification has been modified in French from 'partenaire en union libre' to 'conjoint de fait'.

  • Legal marital status of person October 19, 2015 to May 25, 2021

    The category label "Married (and not separated)" has been changed to "Married" and "Single" has been changed to "Never married." Some definitions have been revised for clarity, but no essential changes have been made.

  • Legal marital status of person October 20, 2008 to October 18, 2015

    Married (and not separated) includes both opposite and same sex couples, which was not the case in the previous standard. The labels and definitions of all other categories now state that those living common law are included. This is a clarification, not a change.

  • Legal marital status July 15, 1998 to October 19, 2008
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