Divorce in South Africa: A Comprehensive Graphical Comparison of the 2022 Divorce Statistics.

Comparing the data on divorces from the “Marriages and divorces, 2021” and “Marriages and divorces, 2022” statistical releases, several interesting trends and differences emerge.

In 2021, there were 18,208 divorces granted in South Africa, while in 2022, this number increased to 20,196, indicating a 10.9% rise in divorces year-over-year. The crude divorce rate also increased from 30 divorces per 100,000 estimated resident population in 2021 to 33 divorces per 100,000 in 2022.

When examining the distribution of divorces by population group, the black African population had the highest number of divorces in both years, accounting for 50.4% of divorces in 2021 and 54.7% in 2022. The white population had the second-highest number of divorces, with 20.1% in 2021 and 19.4% in 2022.

Regarding the sex of the plaintiff who filed for divorce, wives consistently initiated more divorces than husbands. In 2021, 54.8% of divorces were filed by wives, compared to 33.7% filed by husbands. Similarly, in 2022, 55.8% of divorces were filed by wives, while 33.2% were filed by husbands.

The median ages at divorce remained relatively stable between the two years. In 2021, the median age at divorce was 45 years for males and 41 years for females. In 2022, the median age was 46 years for males and 42 years for females, indicating a slight increase in the median age at divorce for both sexes.

When considering the duration of marriage at the time of divorce, the data shows that the highest proportion of divorces occurred between 5 and 9 years of marriage in both 2021 and 2022. In 2021, 26.6% of divorces were from marriages that lasted 5-9 years, while in 2022, this proportion remained the same at 26.6%.

The presence of children younger than 18 years in divorcing couples also showed consistency across the two years. In 2021, 56.6% of divorces involved couples with children under 18, affecting a total of 17,345 children. Similarly, in 2022, 55.3% of divorces involved couples with children under 18, impacting 18,850 children.

The data also reveals some interesting findings when examining divorces by province. In both 2021 and 2022, Gauteng, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of divorces. In 2021, these three provinces accounted for 75.1% of all divorces, with Gauteng having 4,859 divorces, Western Cape 3,833, and KwaZulu-Natal 2,851. Similarly, in 2022, these provinces made up 61.6% of divorces, with Gauteng recording 5,778 divorces, Western Cape 3,591, and KwaZulu-Natal 3,074.

When looking at the distribution of divorces by the type of occupation of the divorcees, it is noteworthy that a significant proportion of both husbands and wives were either not economically active or unemployed at the time of divorce. In 2021, 22.1% of husbands and 28.5% of wives fell into this category, while in 2022, the figures were 16.3% for husbands and 21.6% for wives. This suggests that financial strain and unemployment may be contributing factors to marital breakdown in South Africa.

It is essential to acknowledge the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on divorce trends. While the data in these reports does not explicitly address this factor, it is plausible that the stresses and challenges brought about by the pandemic, such as lockdowns, financial difficulties, and changes in daily routines, may have exacerbated existing marital issues and contributed to the increase in divorces observed from 2021 to 2022.

The statistical release does not provide a direct calculation of the percentage of marriages that end in divorce in South Africa. This is because the data on marriages and divorces are not directly linked, and the divorces in a given year are not necessarily from the marriages that took place in that same year.

However, we can look at the crude divorce rate to get a sense of the prevalence of divorce in relation to the population size. According to the statistical release, the crude divorce rate in South Africa in 2022 was 33 divorces per 100,000 estimated resident population. To put this in perspective, the crude marriage rate in 2022 was 2.0 per 1,000 population (or 200 marriages per 100,000 population).

While these rates are not directly comparable, they suggest that the number of divorces is relatively low compared to the number of marriages in a given year. However, it’s important to note that these rates do not account for the total number of marriages that eventually end in divorce over time.

Calculating the precise percentage of marriages that end in divorce would require tracking a cohort of marriages over an extended period and determining the proportion that ultimately divorces.

In conclusion, while the number of divorces and crude divorce rate increased from 2021 to 2022, many of the key characteristics of divorces remained relatively consistent. Wives continued to initiate more divorces than husbands, and the median ages at divorce, duration of marriage at the time of divorce, and presence of children in divorcing couples showed minimal changes. The black African population maintained the highest proportion of divorces, followed by the white population. These findings highlight the ongoing trends and patterns in divorces in South Africa over the two-year period.

Compiled by Bertus Preller, a Family Law and Divorce Law attorney and Mediator at Maurice Phillips Wisenberg in Cape Town. A blog, managed by SplashLaw, for more information on Family Law read more here.