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 two persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process to complete a divorce. A divorce does not declare a marriage null and void, as in an annulment, but divorce cancels the marital status of the parties, allowing each to marry another.
Divorce laws vary considerably around the world. Divorce is not permitted in some countries, such as in Malta and in the Philippines, 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. In some 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 Portugal, 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 States, all states now require parents to file a parenting plan when they legally separate or divorce. 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 States, Canada, and Scandinavia. Japan , France, and Italy retain a lower divorce rate, and it has decreased recently.