Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union.[1] It usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state. Divorce laws vary considerably around the world,[1] but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of distribution of property,[2] child custody,[2] alimony (spousal support), child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, and division of debt. In most countries, monogamy is required by law, so divorce allows each former partner to marry another person; where polygyny is legal but polyandry is not, divorce allows the woman to marry another person.

Divorce should not be confused with annulment, which declares the marriage null and void, with legal separation or de jure separation (a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married) or with de facto separation (a process where the spouses informally stop cohabiting). Reasons for divorce vary, from sexual incompatibility or lack of independence for one or both spouses to a personality clash.[3]

The only countries that do not allow divorce are the Philippines, the Vatican City and the British Crown Dependency of Sark.[4] In the Philippines, divorce for non-Muslim Filipinos is not legal unless the husband or wife is an alien and satisfies certain conditions.[5] The Vatican City is an ecclesiastical state, which has no procedure for divorce. Countries that have relatively recently legalized divorce are Italy (1970), Portugal (1975), Brazil (1977), Spain (1981), Argentina (1987),[6] Paraguay (1991),[7] Colombia (1991*[7][8]), Andorra (1995),[9] Ireland (1996), Chile (2004)[10] and Malta (2011).


Grounds for divorce vary widely from country to country. Marriage may be seen as a contract, a status, or a combination of these.[11] Where it is seen as a contract, the refusal or inability of one spouse to perform the obligations stipulated in the contract may constitute a ground for divorce for the other spouse. In contrast, in some countries (such as Sweden,[12] Finland,[13] Australia,[14] New Zealand),[15] divorce is purely no fault. Many jurisdictions offer both the option of a no fault divorce as well as an at fault divorce. This is the case, for example, in many US states (see Grounds for divorce (United States)).

Though divorce laws vary between jurisdictions, 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, shared care arrangements and support. In some jurisdictions one spouse may be forced to pay the attorney's fees of another spouse.[16]

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.[17]

In Europe, divorce laws differ from country to country, reflecting differing legal and cultural traditions. In some countries, particularly (but not only) in some former communist countries, divorce can be obtained only on one single general ground of "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage" (or a similar formulation). Yet, what constitutes such a "breakdown" of the marriage is interpreted very differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, ranging from very liberal interpretations (e.g. Netherlands)[18] to quite restrictive ones (e.g., in Poland, there must be an "irretrievable and complete disintegration of matrimonial life," but there are many restrictions to granting a divorce).[19][20] Separation constitutes a ground of divorce in some European countries (in Germany, e.g., a divorce is granted on the basis of a 1-year separation if both spouses consent, or 3-year separation if only one spouse consents).[21] Note that "separation" does not necessarily mean separate residences – in some jurisdictions, living in the same household but leading a separate life (e.g., eating, sleeping, socializing, etc. separately) is sufficient to constitute de facto separation; this is explicitly stated, e.g., in the family laws of Latvia.[22]

Divorce laws are not static; they often change reflecting evolving social norms of societies. In the 21st century, many European countries have made changes to their divorce laws, in particular by reducing the length of the necessary periods of separation, e.g., Scotland in 2006 (1 or 2 years from the previous 2 or 5 years); France in 2005 (2 years from the previous 6 years),[23] Switzerland in 2005 (2 years from the previous 4 years),[24] Greece in 2008 (two years from the previous four years).[25] Some countries have completely overhauled their divorce laws, such as Spain in 2005,[26] and Portugal in 2008. A new divorce law also came into force in September 2007 in Belgium, creating a new system that is primarily no-fault.[27] Bulgaria also modified its divorce regulations in 2009. Also in Italy, new laws came into force in 2014 and 2015 with significant changes in Italian law in matter of divorce: apart from shortening of the period of obligatory separation (6 months or 1 year from the previous 3 years), are allowed other forms of getting a divorce – as an alternative to court proceedings, i.e. the negotiations with the participation of an advocate or agreement made before the registrar of Public Registry Office.[28] Austria, instead, is a European country where the divorce law still remains conservative.[29]

The liberalization of divorce laws is not without opposition, particularly in the United States. Indeed, in the US, certain conservative and religious organizations are lobbying for laws which restrict divorce. In 2011, in the US, the Coalition for Divorce Reform was established, describing itself as an organization "dedicated to supporting efforts to reduce unnecessary divorce and promote healthy marriages."[30]

The magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church founds the concept of marriage on natural moral law, elaborated by St. Thomas Aquinas, supplemented by the revealed Divine law. The doctrine of Doctor Angelicus has been partially shared by the Eastern Orthodox Church in the course of history.[31]

Other Languages
العربية: طلاق
asturianu: Divorciu
azərbaycanca: Boşanma
Bahasa Banjar: Sarak
Bân-lâm-gú: Lī-iân
беларуская: Развод
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Развод
български: Развод
brezhoneg: Torr-dimeziñ
català: Divorci
Cebuano: Diborsyo
čeština: Rozvod
dansk: Skilsmisse
Deutsch: Scheidung
Ελληνικά: Διαζύγιο
español: Divorcio
Esperanto: Divorco
euskara: Dibortzio
فارسی: طلاق
français: Divorce
galego: Divorcio
한국어: 이혼
hrvatski: Razvod braka
Bahasa Indonesia: Perceraian
italiano: Divorzio
עברית: גירושים
ಕನ್ನಡ: ವಿಚ್ಛೇದನ
қазақша: Ажырасу
Kiswahili: Talaka
Kreyòl ayisyen: Divòs
Latina: Divortium
latviešu: Šķiršanās
magyar: Válás
македонски: Развод
മലയാളം: വിവാഹമോചനം
Malti: Divorzju
मराठी: घटस्फोट
Nederlands: Echtscheiding
日本語: 離婚
norsk: Skilsmisse
norsk nynorsk: Skilsmisse
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Nikohni bekor qilish
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਤਲਾਕ
پښتو: پرېژه
polski: Rozwód
português: Divórcio
română: Divorț
Runa Simi: T'aqanakuy
русский: Развод
ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤ: ᱥᱟᱠᱟᱢ ᱪᱤᱨᱟᱹ
Scots: Divorce
shqip: Divorci
sicilianu: Divorziu
Simple English: Divorce
سنڌي: طلاق
slovenščina: Ločitev
српски / srpski: Развод
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Razvod
suomi: Avioero
svenska: Skilsmässa
Tagalog: Diborsiyo
татарча/tatarça: Аерылышу
తెలుగు: విడాకులు
Türkçe: Boşanma
українська: Розлучення
اردو: طلاق
Tiếng Việt: Ly hôn
文言: 離婚
ייִדיש: גט
粵語: 離婚
žemaitėška: Skīrėmos
中文: 离婚