Around 54,000 divorces were filed in 2010-11 in seven reporting provinces and territories (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, representing 66 per cent of Canada’s population), two-per-cent fewer than the previous year, when about 55,000 divorce files were opened. In 2008/2009 there were more than 56,000 initiations. This year’s number marks an estimated eight per cent fall in new cases since 2006/2007.
The steady decline mirrors a fall in the number of couples tying the knot over the last two decades. Whereas in 1989, about 190,000 marriages were recorded, by 2008, the last year data are available, that number had fallen to just 150,000. According to StatsCan, it expects about 60,000 of those couples to divorce before they reach their 30th anniversaries in 2038.
And when they do make the decision to dissolve their unions, there are ways to speed up the process, according to the report. The median length of uncontested divorces was just 120 days, compared with 490 days for contested ones. Couples in B.C. were most likely to have contested divorces in 2010-11, accounting for 23 per cent of active files. Nunavut had the smallest proportion of contested divorces, at 10 per cent of active files last year.
Still, an extremely small number of cases end up requiring a trial. The report notes that just one per cent of open cases had a trial during the last year, and only two per cent had ever reached trial at any stage.
Most divorces (61 per cent) are actually granted within six months of initiation in court, according to the report. Ontario is one of the quicker jurisdictions, managing to get 41 per cent of all its divorces done and dusted within three months.
However, 21 per cent drag on for more than a year in court nationwide, with wide variations by jurisdiction. A divorce in the Northwest Territories is least likely to cross the one-year threshold, with 13 per cent of cases lasting longer than 12 months, closely followed by Ontario at 14 per cent. Cases in Alberta are most likely to take more than a year, with 38 per cent in that category, while 37 per cent of Nova Scotia cases also take more than a year to get a judgment.