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Divorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the termination of a marriage or marital union, the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law of the particular country or state.
Divorce laws vary considerably around the world, but in most countries divorce requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may involve issues of alimony (spousal support), child custody, child visitation / access, parenting time, child support, distribution of property, and division of debt.
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 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), Bulgaria also modified its divorce regulations in 2009.
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. However, issues of division of property are typically determined by the law of the jurisdiction in which the property is located.
In most jurisdictions, a divorce must be certified (or ordered by a Judge) by a court of law to come into effect.
The terms of the divorce are usually determined by the courts, though they may take into account prenuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements, or simply ratify terms that the spouses may have agreed to privately (this is not true in the United States, where agreements related to the marriage typically have to be rendered in writing to be enforceable).