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Marriage and Divorce

• Date: Sep 19, 2008 • Source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/


Marriage remains one of the most important social institutions in Canada, but overall the marriage rate in Canada is declining and the "traditional" portrait of a family is being transformed. According to Statistics Canada, by 2002 approximately 84% of Canadian families were headed by married couples and more than three-quarters of all Canadian adults will marry at some point in their lives. Since the 1960s, marriage and divorce in Canada have undergone profound changes that have substantially altered the meaning of marriage, the probability of its ending in divorce, and the circumstances surrounding a marriage.

Marriage ceremonies are performed either by clergy during a religious ceremony or during a civil ceremony. At the beginning of the 21st century, 76% of marriage ceremonies were religious and religious ceremonies were most common in Ontario (98.5%) in contrast to British Columbia where more than half of the ceremonies were civil ceremonies. Another union called common-law marriage has become increasingly common in Canada. This form of cohabitation does not involve a legal ceremony for its participants but it does gradually confer rights and obligations that are similar to marriage. These rights are acquired through the act of living together and, where applicable, having a child together.

In 2000 the census indicated there was a slight rise in the marriage rate, 5 for every 1000 people in Canada, which was attributed to couples choosing to marry at the start of the new millennium. After the millennium the marriage rate fell to 4.7 marriages per 1000 people (compared to 10.9 in the 1940s), continuing the trend of a declining marriage rate.

Age at First Marriage

The overall number of young people who are marrying is decreasing and the average age for both men and women when they first marry has been gradually rising. In 1950 the average age for first marriage for men was 28.5 years and for women was 25.9 years. Fifty years later the average age at first marriage was 28 years for brides and 30 years for grooms - a substantial delay in marrying when compared with earlier years. What has remained stable is that grooms are generally around 2 years older than brides. This has implications both during the marriage and towards its end. Women, on average, live longer than men (in 2004 the life expectancy for women was 82.6 years and 77.8 years for men). A woman is therefore much more likely to die as a widow while a man is much more likely to die as a husband.