In the same way that the states regulate the beginning of marriages, they also regulate the end. Divorce, (technically referred to as a “dissolution of marriage”) is the legal termination of a marriage, and some type of judicial action is required in every state of the U.S. While in the past the law required either consent or just cause to divorce, now most states merely require one spouse’s determination that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. However, many states still allow parties to seek a divorce for fault, if they can prove the allegations. The most common grounds for “at fault” divorces are adultery, desertion, and physical or mental cruelty. Although these types of divorces are harder to obtain because of the proof requirement, they can often result in a more favorable property or custody settlement for the petitioner. However, because these types of actions require testimony into private and often embarrassing aspects of people’s lives, they have become less and less common.

Most modern divorce proceedings are of the “no fault” variety. This means that a spouse does not have to prove fault or wrongdoing by the other, but only that the marriage has broken down and cannot be repaired. This has made the divorce process much simpler and cheaper for the vast majority of the public. For example, in California, any couple married for less than five years, with no children and less than $10,000 in marital property can obtain a divorce by simply filling out the proper form and notifying the state that they are no longer married. In many other states, the judicial oversight involved is merely a rubber stamp of the parties’ agreement on how to best divide the marital property and parenting time. Courts prefer this approach and will often encourage parties to work out such agreements in order to avoid having to decide difficult and complex issues such as child custody.

Regardless of the type of divorce chosen, a court must have jurisdiction over the parties in order to dissolve the marriage and enter a property or custody settlement. In every state, there are residency requirements that must be met, and most states also require that the parties live separate and apart for a period of time before the divorce can be finalized. Often, a woman seeking a divorce will also have to attest that she is not pregnant at the time of filing.

Although divorces have become easier and more common in recent years, they are still serious judicial matters involving a judge’s equitable judgment. In any divorce or dissolution case, a judge will be particularly careful to protect the interests of the relatively weaker spouse, and this must be taken into account from the outset. As a practical consideration, it should also be noted that the purpose of divorce is to dissolve only the legal ties between the parties. Divorced couples often remain connected to a degree because of children and mutual property interests or debts. In addition, divorce issues often drag on for many years due to child support modifications or tax issues. Therefore, if you are considering divorce, you should realize that it is not likely to resolve all of the issues of your relationship, and you should be prepared to deal with what can be a drawn out process.