Divorce, or dissolution, as it is increasingly becoming known, is a legislatively created, judicially administered process that legally terminates a marriage no longer considered viable by one or both of the spouses and that permits both to remarry. Until the divorce reform movement of the 1970s began to have an impact, the legal doctrines governing divorce could be understood only by reviewing the long history of English divorce law, which was dominated by concepts of canon law.
In a divorce action, one spouse, usually the wife, may be granted alimony or maintenance payments generally for a limited period of time. The custody of any children may be awarded to either spouse, with equitable regulations made for visiting rights and support of the children. At present, joint-custody arrangements are being worked out more and more frequently by divorcing parents.
Divorce rates in the United States rose during and after World War II (1939-1945) and then briefly declined. After reaching a peak in the early 1980s, the rates again decreased:
Separation, in the law of domestic relations, either a separation agreement, that is, a contract entered into between husband and wife by which they agree to live apart; or a judicial separation, a court decree that separates the parties to the marriage and provides for their living apart. Separation does not dissolve the marriage relationship. A separation agreement contains provisions for the custody and support of minor children, as well as for the division of property between the parties.
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