Divorce Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Divorce, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Divorce?

1\) n. A marriage’s obliteration through legal action requiring a petition or complaint for divorce. A minimal illustration of fault is required for some states, but incompatibility is usually sufficient to grant divorce. When issuing a divorce decree, the substantive issues include the division of property, child support and custody, alimony, child visitation and attorney’s fees. The petitioning or complaining party has to file in his/her residing state because only state courts have jurisdiction over divorces. The divorce process for most states usually takes several months to occur to allow for a chance to reconcile.

History and Meaning of Divorce

The act of divorce, or the legal termination of a marriage, has existed for centuries across various cultures and religions. However, divorce was not easily accessible or allowed in many societies, often reserved for men or limited to extreme circumstances such as adultery. In the United States, divorce was also heavily restricted and moralized in early colonial times and was only granted based on specific grounds such as abandonment or cruelty.

Today, divorce has become a more widely accepted and common practice in many countries, including the United States. No-fault divorces, where neither party has to prove fault, are now allowed in every state, and some states require separation periods or mediation before divorce can be legally finalized.

Examples of Divorce

  1. Jane and John filed for divorce after realizing they had grown apart and no longer shared the same values.
  2. The court granted Maria full custody of the children after her husband was found to be abusive.
  3. Bob and Alice utilized mediation services to come to an amicable agreement on property division before filing for divorce.

Legal Terms Similar to Divorce

  1. Separation – living apart from someone while still legally married
  2. Annulment – the legal invalidation of a marriage, declaring it null and void
  3. Alimony – financial support paid by one spouse to the other after divorce or separation
  4. Child custody – legal arrangements determining who will care for a child after divorce or separation
  5. Division of property – the legal distribution of property and assets after divorce or separation