11,000 fewer marriages in 2020

11,000 fewer marriages in 2020

Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, publishes today the figures on marriages, divorces and legal cohabitation. In 2020, the health crisis clearly had an impact on the partnership, in terms of both union and separation:

  • 32,779 marriages have been contracted in Belgium, i.e. a decrease of 11,491 or 26 % compared to 2019.
  • The number of marriages is historically low. Only in the early 20th century was it lower, due to World War I.
  • The number of divorces also decreased to 21,300 (-5.1%). There was therefore no record number of divorces in 2020.
  • Besides, 36,329 declarations of legal cohabitation were notified. This is a 11% decrease compared to 2019.

Marriages down for most of the year

In 2020, 31,779 marriages were contracted. This represents a 26% decrease compared to 2019. This decrease is more pronounced in Wallonia (-30.8%), but was also significant in Brussels (-22.1%) and in Flanders (-21.8%).

Top 3 municipalities with the most marriages:

Brussels-Capital Region 3,325
1.      Brussels 531
2.      Schaerbeek 456
3.      Molenbeek-Saint-Jean 334
Flemish Region 19,145
1.      Antwerp 1,808
2.      Ghent 927
3.      Bruges 360
Walloon Region 7,620
1.      Charleroi 423
2.      Liège 367
3.      Namur 245

In 2020, the age at which single partners get married for the first time continues to increase, to 33.4 years on average for the first partner and 31.1 for the second. The age difference within the couple slightly decreases to 2.3 years between the spouses. We can also look at the extremes of the age categories: in 2020, 87 young people aged 18 or under got married, as well as 640 people over 60.

In 2020, 909 marriages were contracted between same-sex partners. Most of them in Flanders: 315 marriages between two women and 281 between two men. Wallonia and Brussels follow at a distance.

  Marriage between two women Marriage between two men
Belgium (total) 449 460
Brussels-Capital Region 32 77
Flemish Region 315 281
Walloon Region 89 79

Although the summer months were once again the most popular to get married, 2020 was an unusual year. The year had gotten off to a good start, with record numbers of marriages in January and February (since 2000): 1,611 in January (+9% compared to January 2019) and 2,690 in February, i.e. 44% more than a year earlier. Then, due to the Covid-19-related lockdown, the number of marriages contracted in April and May was divided by three compared to 2019 and by two in June. Then, all the following months were the lowest since 2000 except for July (which was worse in 2013) and October where there was some catching up with a record of 3,729 marriages celebrated (11% more than in 2019).

The number of divorces decreases

2020 was no record-breaking year in terms of divorces. On the contrary, the number of divorces decreases: 21,300 in 2020, i.e. -5.1 % compared to 2019. A marriage lasts on average 14.9 years before ending in a divorce, which is a slight decrease of 0.1 year compared to 2019.

While in the first three months of 2020, divorces were still following the trends of the previous years, their number dropped in April, month of lockdown, with 1,000 fewer divorces than in April 2019 (949 in 2020 against 1,948 in 2019). It should be noted that the months of June and September show a rather remarkable increase in the number of cases: 33% more divorces in June 2020 than in 2019, and 25% more in September 2020 compared to 2019.

If we relate the events to the "cohort" of marriages from which they originate, we observe that the divorce rate remains stable: four marriages out of ten end in a divorce.

The number of legal cohabitation declarations and terminations decrease

36,329 declarations of legal cohabitation were notified. This is a 11% decrease compared to 2019. The number of legal cohabitation terminations decreases even more: -16.9% compared to 2019 to 21,845.

The average duration of legal cohabitation before termination continues to increase from 4.8 years in 2019 to 5.2 years in 2020.

In 2020, marriage was the first cause of legal cohabitation termination in 47.9% of cases, and the declaration by mutual agreement in 41.8% of cases. In 2019, 53.3% of legal cohabitations ended in a marriage and 38.2% following a declaration by mutual agreement.

Legal cohabitation occurs around the age of 30

In 2019, it is around the age of thirty that single partners enter into legal cohabitation for the first time: on average at 31.6 years for the first cohabitant and 29.7 years for the second. The age difference within the couple remains stable: 1.9 years for legal cohabitants.