Max Rady College of Medicine

Concept: Separation - Family Structure

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Concept Description

Last Updated: 2024-03-12


    concept/Social Determinants of Health-SDOH-Digital Library-Image.jpg Part of the Family Structure group of Concepts, Separation discusses the definition and data methodology around Separation and how it is represented in MCHP data.

Definition and additional background information

    Separation occurs when members of a married couple or a common-law couple live separate and apart from each other.

    A court order of formal separation is not required.

    Like Marriage, Separation describes a relation between two people that exists over a period of time. Unlike Marriage, however, the start and end points of this interval may be difficult to determine.

    Both married couples and common-law partners can enter into a period of separation. However, only those legally married are eligible to divorce.


    Marriages and Common-Law Unions determined by the Manitoba Health Insurance Registry

    The end of a Marriage or Common-Law Union may occur at Divorce (for marriages only), the start of a period of Separation, or somewhere in between.

    The %RegRelation() SAS® macro can be used to find the end date of a Marriage or Common-Law Union.
    In the ALLREL file, select RELTYPE=’Spouse - Male’ or ‘Spouse - Female’. The SPEDT specifies the endpoint of the period of joint registration.

    One advantage to using end of a Marriage or Common-Law Union as a proxy for Separation is that it applies to both. Another is that it is defined the same way for everyone in the Registry (self-reported).


    Since Separations do not usually have a formal start or end date, determining when and which Marriages are in a state of Separation is challenging.

    Self-reported marital status in the Registry has the potential to generate both false positives and false negatives. A Separated couple who does not change their registration status continues to be counted as Married. Conversely, a member of a Separated couple who enters into a new, unreported, relationship will continue to be counted as Separated.

    The end date as recorded in the Registry represents nothing like a divorce decree or separation agreement, so does not necessarily coincide with any other data source.

    Separation, as measured in the Registry, assumes that the two people continue to be alive. The death of one spouse does not constitute separation but a change of marital status of the surviving partner as widowed.

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Manitoba Centre for Health Policy
Community Health Sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine,
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences,
Room 408-727 McDermot Ave.
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3E 3P5 Canada