Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Idioms, Wikipedia.
divorce,partial or total dissolution of a marriagemarriage,
socially sanctioned union that reproduces the family. In all societies the choice of partners is generally guided by rules of exogamy (the obligation to marry outside a group); some societies also have rules of endogamy (the obligation to marry within a group).
..... Click the link for more information. by the judgment of a court. Partial dissolution is a divorce "from bed and board," a decree of judicial separationseparation,
in law, either the voluntary agreement of husband and wife to live apart or a partial dissolution of the marriage relation by court order. The marriage bond remains, and remarriage of either party is criminal.
..... Click the link for more information. , leaving the parties officially married while forbidding cohabitation. Total dissolution of the bonds of a valid marriage is what is now generally meant by divorce. It is to be distinguished from a decree of nullity of marriagenullity of marriage,
in law, an unlawful marriage that is either void or voidable because of conditions existing at the time of the marriage. A bigamous or incestuous marriage, for example, is void, and there is no need to bring a suit to obtain a decree declaring it void.
..... Click the link for more information. , or annulment, which is a judicial finding that there never was a valid marriage.
Although created by a contract between husband and wife, marriage is a legal relation of a particular nature with certain mutual rights and obligations, determined not by agreements but by the general law. In a sense, then, the state has an interest in every marriage. The parties cannot themselves officially terminate the marital relation by a contract of separation.
Jurisdiction over Divorce
In England, divorce was originally under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. These courts followed the canon lawcanon law,
in the Roman Catholic Church, the body of law based on the legislation of the councils (both ecumenical and local) and the popes, as well as the bishops (for diocesan matters).
..... Click the link for more information. rules. They could grant a divorce from bed and board and could pass on the original validity or nullity of the marriage, but could not grant a total divorce from the marriage bond. This power lay only in Parliament. In 1857, by act of Parliament, judicial courts succeeded to the jurisdiction over nullity and partial dissolution and were given the added power to grant total dissolution of the marriage. In the United States, where ecclesiastical courts were never established, the matrimonial law of England applied by these courts was never received as part of the common law. Consequently, suits for divorce can be brought under authority of statute only. The statutes usually confer upon equity courts jurisdiction over divorce. The power to legislate on divorce belongs to the states and not to the federal government, and each state has unique laws regarding divorce. The state of residence at the time of divorce, not the state in which a couple was married, determines what laws apply.
Grounds for Divorce
Until the recent advent of the "no-fault" divorce, in which neither party is expected to prove the spouse as the "guilty party" in the marriage, a marriage could be dissolved only for what the state deemed to be proper grounds. While "no-fault" divorces have become increasingly common in all U.S. states, there are still many cases where marital partners seek to establish fault, particularly in states that require a waiting period of legal separation before allowing a "no-fault" divorce. The most common grounds are adultery, desertiondesertion,
in law, the forsaking of a station involving public or social duties without justification and with the intention of not returning. In military law, it is the abandonment of (or failure to arrive at) a place of duty without leave; in time of war, especially in the
..... Click the link for more information. , and physical or mental cruelty. Habitual drunkenness, incurable mental illness, conviction of a crime, nonsupport, or constructive abandonment are other grounds for establishing fault. Corrupt consent by a party to the conduct of the other party bars a divorce, as does collusion. Forgiveness of the offense, either express or implied (as by cohabitation), on condition that it not be repeated, is a bar to a divorce for that offense.
The Divorce Decree
A decree of divorce is valid only if the court rendering the decree has jurisdiction, and jurisdiction is in the main based on the domiciledomicile
, one's legal residence. This may or may not be the place where one actually resides at any one time. The domicile is the permanent home to which one is presumed to have the intention of returning whenever the purpose for which one is absent has been accomplished.
..... Click the link for more information. of the parties. An absolute divorce, as contrasted with a decree of nullity, takes effect from the date of the decree. By the divorce decree, the custody of the children is usually given at the discretion of the court to one of the parties, the welfare of the children being the principal consideration. In recent years, fathers in divorce proceedings have fought for equal custody rights, calling into question the long-standing tradition of favoring the mother in custody battles. New developments in divorce law allow joint custody of children, as well as visitation rights for grandparents and other relatives.
The wife may retain the husband's name, although in most states she may choose to resume her maiden name. Both parties are usually at liberty to remarry, although this rule is not invariable, and a time limit within which the parties may not remarry is sometimes imposed. In most jurisdictions, one spouse may be entitled to alimonyalimony,
in law, allowance for support that an individual pays to his or her former spouse, usually as part of a divorce settlement. It is based on the common law right of a wife to be supported by her husband, but in the United States, the Supreme Court in 1979 removed its
..... Click the link for more information. payments from the other at the discretion of the court.