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Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process.

In western countries, a divorce does not declare a marriage null and void, as in an annulment, but divorce cancels the marital status of the parties. Where monogamy is law, this allows each partner to marry another. Where polygyny is legal, divorce allows the woman to marry another.

Divorce laws vary considerably around the world. Divorce is not permitted in some countries, such as in Maltamarker and in the Philippinesmarker, though an annulment is permitted.

The legal process for divorce may also involve issues of spousal support, child custody, child support, distribution of property and division of debt, though these matters are usually only ancillary or consequential to the dissolution of the marriage.

Western law

In some Western jurisdictions divorce does not require a party to claim fault of their partner that leads to the breakdown of marriage. But even in jurisdictions which have adopted the "no fault" principle in divorce proceedings, a court may still take into account the behaviour of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody, and support.

In most jurisdictions, a divorce must be certified by a court of law to become effective. The terms of the divorce are usually determined by the court, though they may take into account prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements, or simply ratify terms that the spouses may have agreed to privately. In the absence of agreement, a contested divorce may be stressful to the spouses and lead to expensive litigation. Less adversarial approaches to divorce settlements have recently emerged, such as mediation and collaborative divorce, which negotiate mutually acceptable resolution to conflicts. In some other countries, like Portugalmarker, when the spouses agree to divorce and to the terms of the divorce, it can be certified by a non judiciary administrative entity, where also can be served an Electronic Divorce since March 2008. The effect of a divorce is that both parties are free to marry again. (see bigamy)

In cases involving children, governments have a pressing interest in ensuring that disputes between parents do not spill over into the family courts. One way of doing this is through the encouragement of a parenting plan. In the United Statesmarker, many states now require parents to file a parenting plan when they legally separate or divorce. In some states, divorcing parents are required to take parenting classes and file their completion certificate with the court.

The subject of divorce as a social phenomenon is an important research topic in sociology. In many developed countries, divorce rates increased markedly during the twentieth century. Among the nations in which divorce has become commonplace are the United Statesmarker, the United Kingdommarker, Canadamarker, Germanymarker, and Scandinavia. Japanmarker and Italymarker retain a lower divorce rate, and it has decreased recently.

Types of divorce

Though divorce laws vary between jurisdiction, there are two basic approaches to divorce: fault based and no-fault based. However, even in some jurisdictions that do not require a party to claim fault of their partner, a court may still take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody, and support.

Laws vary as to the waiting period before a divorce is effective. Also, residency requirements vary. However, issues of division of property are typically determined by the law of the jurisdiction in which the property is located.

No-fault divorce

Under a no-fault divorce system, the dissolution of a marriage does not require an allegation or proof of fault of either party.

The application can be made by either party or by both parties jointly. The same holds true for Canadamarker and Germanymarker.

Forty-nine states of the United States have adopted no-fault divorce laws, with grounds for divorce including incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, and irremediable breakdown of the marriage.

At-fault divorce

Prior to 1975, countries which permitted divorces also required proof by one party that the other party had committed an act incompatible to the marriage. This was termed "grounds" for divorce (popularly called "fault") and was the only way to terminate a marriage. Most jurisdictions around the world still require such proof of fault. In the United States, only New Yorkmarker state still requires fault for a divorce.

Fault-based divorces can be contested and may involve allegations of collusion of the parties, or condonation, connivance, or provocation by the other party. Contested fault divorces can be expensive, and not usually practical as eventually most divorces are granted. Comparative rectitude is a doctrine used to determine which spouse is more at fault when both spouses are guilty of breaches.

Summary divorce

A summary (or simple) divorce, available in some jurisdictions, is used when spouses meet certain eligibility requirements, or can agree on key issues beforehand.

Key factors:
  • Short marriage (less than 5 years)
  • No children (or, in some states, they have resolved custody and set child support payments)
  • Minimal or no real property (no mortgage)
  • Marital property is under a threshold (around $35,000 not including vehicles)
  • Each spouse's personal property is under a threshold (typically the same as marital property)

Uncontested divorce

It is estimated that upwards of 95% of divorces in the US are "uncontested," because the two parties are able to come to an agreement (either with or without lawyers/mediators/collaborative counsel) about the property, children and support issues. When the parties can agree and present the court with a fair and equitable agreement, approval of the divorce is almost guaranteed. If the two parties cannot come to an agreement, they may ask the court to decide how to split property and deal with the custody of their children. Though this may be necessary, the courts would prefer parties come to an agreement prior to entering court.

Where the issues are not complex and the parties are cooperative, a settlement often can be directly negotiated between them. In the majority of cases, forms are acquired from their respective state websites and a filing fee is paid to the state.. Most US states charge between $175 and $350 for a simple divorce filing. Collaborative divorce and mediated divorce are considered uncontested divorces.

Collaborative divorce

Collaborative divorce is becoming a popular method for divorcing couples to come to agreement on divorce issues. In a collaborative divorce, the parties negotiate an agreed resolution with the assistance of attorneys who are trained in the collaborative divorce process and in mediation, and often with the assistance of a neutral financial specialist and/or divorce coach(es). The parties are empowered to make their own decisions based on their own needs and interests, but with complete information and full professional support. Once the collaborative divorce starts, the lawyers are disqualified from representing the parties in a contested legal proceeding, should the collaborative law process end prematurely. Most attorneys who practice collaborative divorce claim that it can be substantially less expensive than other divorce methods (regular divorce or mediation). However, should the parties not reach any agreements, any documents or information exchanged during the collaborative process can later be used in further legal proceedings, as the collaborative process is not a confidential proceedings absent some binding agreement that say it is confidential. Furthermore, there are no set enforceable time lines for completion of a divorce using collaborative divorce.

Mediated divorce

Divorce mediation is an alternative to traditional divorce litigation. In a divorce mediation session, a mediator facilitates the discussion between the two parties by assisting with communication and providing information and suggestions to help resolve differences. At the end of the mediation process, the separating parties have typically developed a tailored divorce agreement that can be submitted to the court. Mediation sessions can include either party's attorneys or a neutral attorney or an attorney-mediator who can inform both parties of their legal rights, but does not provide advice to either, or can be conducted without attorneys. Divorce mediators may be attorneys who have experience in divorce cases. Divorce mediation can be significantly less expensive than litigation. The adherence rate to mediated agreements is much higher than that of adherence to court orders.


United States

In 2008, 46% of all marriages involve a remarriage for one or both spouses. It is estimated that 40% of all marriages have ended in divorce as of 2008.

A number of factors may contribute to divorce but many are often poorly cited. The overall divorce rate is in decline in the US, but so is the marriage rate. A 1995 study found a wide range of unassociated factors including frequency of sex, wealth, race and religious commitment

Among factors that are believed to be associated with a higher divorce rate were cohabitation prior to marriage, and infrequent church attendance.

United Kingdom

The number of divorces granted in the UK in 1961 was 27,000. This doubled to 56,000 by 1969, and doubled to 125,000 divorces by 1972. The number in 2002 was 160,000. The increase in divorces has been largely attributed to the introduction of the Divorce Reform Act of 1969.

The rate of divorce in the United Kingdom has been dropping in recent years. In 2007 the divorce rate in England and Wales was recorded at 11.9 people per every 1000 of the married population. This is the lowest divorce rate recorded since 1981.


In 2000, Belgium had the highest divorce rate at 2.9 per 1,000 people, and Italy and the Republic of Ireland the lowest rate at 0.7.

One study estimated that legal reforms accounted for about 20 percent of the increase in divorce rates in Europe between 1960 and 2002.


In Japan, divorces were on a generally upward trend from the 1960s until 2002 when they hit a peak of 290,000. Since then, both the number of divorces and the divorce rate have declined for six years straight. In 2008, the number of divorces totaled 251,000, and the divorce rate was 1.99 (per 1,000 population).

South Asia

India and Sri Lanka are the two countries that have the lowest divorce rates, around one and one and a half per cent respectively. In this part of Asia divorce is still very rare, although it is more common in South East Asia. In India, for example, arranged marriage is still fairly prominent although not as common as it once was. Divorce is not deemed as acceptable as it is in other cultures and therefore many either make a concerted effort to work through relationship problems or remain in unhappy marriages.


In contrast to the Western world where divorce was relatively uncommon until modern times, divorce was a common occurrence in at least two pre-modern societies: Japanmarker and the Muslim world.


Divorce existed in antiquity, dating at least back to ancient Mesopotamia.

Greco-Roman culture

The ancient Atheniansmarker liberally allowed divorce, but the person requesting divorce had to submit the request to a magistrate, and the magistrate could determine whether the reasons given were sufficient.

Divorce was rare in early Roman culture but as their empire grew in power and authority Roman civil law embraced the maxim, “matrimonia debent esse libera” ("marriages ought to be free"), and either husband or wife could renounce the marriage at will. Though civil authority rarely intervened in divorces, social and familial taboos guaranteed that divorce occurred only after serious circumspection.


In 19th century Japan, at least one in eight marriages ended in divorce.


In India, Divorce and remarriage are legal.


In Islamic law and marital jurisprudence, divorce is accepted and referred to as talaq.

In the medieval Islamic world and the Ottoman Empire, the rate of divorce was higher than it is today in the modern Middle East, which now has generally low rates of divorce. In 15th century Egyptmarker, Al-Sakhawi recorded the marital history of 500 women, the largest sample on marriage in the Middle Ages, and found that at least a third of all women in the Mamluk Sultanatemarker of Egypt and Syriamarker married more than once, with many marrying three or more times. According to Al-Sakhawi, as many as three out of ten marriages in 15th century Cairomarker ended in divorce. In the early 20th century, some villages in western Javamarker and the Malay peninsula had divorce rates as high as 70%.

See also


  1. Divorce Forms by State (US)
  2. Divorce and Marriage rates 2007
  3. 1995 US Divorce Analysis
  4. []
  5. [1]
  7. *"Talak". Encyclopaedia of Islam

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