Grounds for divorce vary widely from country to country. Marriage may be seen as a contract, a status, or a combination of these. 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, Finland, Australia, New Zealand), 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.
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.
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) 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). 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). 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.
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), Switzerland in 2005 (2 years from the previous 4 years), Greece in 2008 (two years from the previous four years). Some countries have completely overhauled their divorce laws, such as Spain in 2005, 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. 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.
Austria, instead, is a European country where the divorce law still remains conservative.
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."
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.