Latest divorce statistics, increase in divorces and more women sue for divorce.

2015-01-02 08:57

Statistics South Africa published the latest divorce statistics on 15 December 2014 based on 21 998 completed divorce forms that StatsSA had received and processed by the end of September 2012. The number indicates an increase of approximately 5% from the 20 980 cases processed in 2011.

Population Groups

Couples from the white population group dominated the number of divorces from 2002 to 2007; thereafter, the black African couples had the highest number of divorces up until 2012. In 2002, 45,2% of the divorcees were from the white population group whereas 22,5% came from the black African population group. By 2012, 33,2% of the divorcees were from the black African population group and 32,9% from the white population group. The proportions of the divorcees from the coloured and the Indian/Asian population groups were quite invariable during the eleven-year period. However, there was a notable increase in the proportions of divorcees from the coloured population group (from 16,6% in 2011 to 18,0% in 2012) which may have affected the results.


The 2012 data presented show that more wives 11 033 (50,2%) than husbands 7 335 (33,3%) initiated the divorce. The sex of the plaintiff was not specified in 3 630 (16,5%) of divorces. With the exception of women from the black African population who had a lower proportion of plaintiffs (40,7%), the proportion of women plaintiffs from the other population groups was above 50,0%. White population group 57,3%, coloured population group 54,7% and Indian/Asian population group 54,3% were women. However, it should also be noted that the black African population group had a much higher proportion of divorces with unspecified sex of the plaintiff (22,1%).


A high proportion of the plaintiffs (12,7% of the men and 19,4% of the women) did not indicate the type of occupation they were engaged in at the time of divorce. In addition, 27,4% and 30,3% of the men and women respectively were not economically active at the time of divorce.

Most plaintiffs were in clerical and sales occupations (11,1%); managers and administrators (10,4%) and 8,4% in professional, semi-professional and technical occupations. Some differences were observed regarding the type of occupation of men and women. The men who initiated the divorce were largely managers and administrators (14,5%) while the women were mainly in clerical and sales occupations (17,3%).

Number of times married

Most divorce cases for both men and women were mainly from individuals who had married once. About 80,0% of divorces for men and women were from first-time marriages compared to about 10,0% from second-time marriages. Around 2,0% of men and women were getting divorced for at least the third time.

Age at time of divorce

The median ages at divorce were 42 years for men and 38 years for women, indicating that generally, men were older than women, with a difference of about four years. The pattern of median ages in 2012 by population group shows that black African men and men from the white population group had the highest median age of 42 years at the time of divorce while women from the Indian/Asian population group had the lowest median age (36 years). The difference in the median ages at the time of divorce for men and women was higher among the black African population groups (four years) than among the other population groups.

The data reveal that there were fewer divorces among the young (less than 25 years old) and the old (65 years and older) divorcees. For men, the peak age group at divorce was 30 to 34 for Indian/Asian population group while the peak for the black African, white and coloured population groups was 40 to 44. In the case of women, the peak age group was generally at age group 35 to 39 except for the Indian/Asians population group which peaked at 30 to 34.

Duration of marriages

The largest number [6 129 (27,9%)] of the divorces were for marriages that lasted between five and nine years. This group is followed by marriages that lasted less than five years [4 637 (21,1%)]. Thus, almost half (48,9%) of the 21 998 divorces in 2012 were marriages that lasted for less than 10 years. According to results given, irrespective of the population group, the highest proportion of divorces occurred to couples who had married for five to nine years. Thus 33,3% of divorces from the black African; 27,2% from the coloured and 26,6% from the white population groups were marriages that lasted between five and ten years. For the white population an equally high proportion (25,5%) of divorces occurred in the first five years. Furthermore, for all population groups, after nine years of marriage, the proportion of divorces declined as the duration of marriage increased.

Divorces involving children

In 2012, 12 083 (54,9%) of the 21 998 divorces had children younger than 18 years. Apart from the mixed population group, the coloured and the white population groups had the highest (64,4%) and the lowest (48,0%) percentages respectively. The distribution of the number of children affected by divorce shows that 35,5% were from the black African population group; 28,2% from the white population group and 22,0% from the coloured population group. There were 19 713 children affected by divorce indicating that, on average, there was one child per divorce.

South Africa’s premier website on Divorce and Separation revealed through Google Analytics that more than 150 000 people in South Africa visited the website in 2014. It is interesting to note that 89% visitors were from Gauteng, followed by 30% from the Western Cape, 11% from KwaZulu-Natal, 3% from the Eastern Cape, 1.47% from the Free State, 1.11% from North West, 1.31% from Limpopo, 0.67% from Mpumalanga and 0.25% from the Northern Cape.

Compiled by:

Bertus Preller - Family Law Attorney

Bertus Preller & Associates Inc. Cape Town

021 422 2461

Twitter: @bertuspreller


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