Fewer Canadian marriages end in divorce

Statistics Canada releases divorce figures, shows rate stable while numbers go down.

Newfoundlanders are the least likely to head for divorce court, while Quebecers get divorced more readily than all other Canadians, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday.

The data show there were fewer divorces in 2002 than in previous years, but the rate of divorces per 100 marriages remained nearly constant.

And for the first time, fewer than half of the dependents were put in custody of the wife in 2002. Of 35,000 dependents for whom custody was awarded by the courts, 49.5 per cent went to the wife.

About 42 per cent of dependents were put into joint custody.

In 1988, custody for 75 per cent of dependents was granted to the wife in divorce proceedings.

After three years of consecutive growth, the number of couples having divorces finalized in 2002 shrank to 70,155, down 1.3 per cent from 2001.

The all-time peak year was 1987, when about 96,000 divorces were finalized.

Despite the reduction in the number of divorces, the rate at which Canadians are getting divorced has remained nearly stable.

The divorce rate is the proportion of marriages that end in divorce within 30 years.

In 2002, the rate was 37.9 per cent. It was 37.6 per cent in 2001, and in 2000 it was 37.7 per cent.

The longer a marriage lasts, the less likely it is to end in divorce. About 60 per cent of the divorces in 2001 and 2002 hadn't reached their 15th anniversary.

Couples with marriages between four and five years old were the most likely to divorce. After five years, the risk of divorce decreases.

Marriages in Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest divorce rate over 30 years. Not quite 22 per cent of marriages there ended in divorce in 2002.

Quebec, however, had a divorce rate of 47.6 per cent.