A divorce formally dissolves a legal marriage. While married couples do not possess a constitutional or legal right to divorce, states permit divorces because to do so best serves public policy. To ensure that a particular divorce serves public policy interests, some states require a “cooling-off period,” which prescribes a time period after legal separation that spouses must bear before they can initiate divorce proceedings.
Courts in the United States currently recognize two types of divorces: absolute divorce, known as “divorce a vinculo matrimonii” and limited divorce, known as “divorce a menso et thoro”. To obtain an absolute divorce, courts require some type of evidentiary showing of misconduct or wrongdoing on one spouse’s part. An absolute divorce is a judicial termination of a legal marriage. An absolute divorce results in the changing back of both parties’ statuses to single. Limited divorces are typically referred to as separation decrees. Limited divorces result in termination of the right to cohabitate but the court refrains from officially dissolving the marriage and the parties’ statuses remain unchanged. Some states permit conversion divorce. Conversion divorce transforms a legal separation into a legal divorce after both parties have been separated for a statutorily-prescribed period of time.
Many states have enacted no-fault divorce statutes. No fault divorce statutes do not require showing spousal misconduct and are a response to outdated divorce statutes that require proof of adultery or some other unsavory act in a court of law by the divorcing party. Nevertheless, even today, not all states have enacted no fault divorce statutes. Instead, the court must only find 1) that the relationship is no longer viable, 2) that irreconcilable differences have caused an irremediable breakdown of the marriage, 3) that discord or conflict of personalities have destroyed the legit ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable possibility of reconciliation, or 4) that the marriage is irretrievably broken.