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A divorce ( divorce for short ) is the dissolution of a marriage . In addition to single, married and widowed, one of the four globally recognized family statuses is divorced . Divorce is possible in all states except the Philippines and Vatican State, but the process and significance can vary widely.

In addition to divorce, there are various forms of annulment , nullity and annulment for formal reasons of declaring a marriage as not validly concluded or concluded from the outset. Even same-sex marriage may be divorced, registered partnerships are canceled ( § 15 LPartG ). Divorce does not break the relationship .


The following table contains information on the first introduction of laws that gave all citizens - regardless of gender or religious affiliation - at least theoretically access to the possibility of a divorce. In many cases, the hurdles actually remained very high, such as B. Rules based on the principle of fault, which often systematically made divorce difficult, especially for women.

Introduction of nationally uniform civil law divorce in selected countries
country year Legal basis, sources and comments
GermanyGermany Germany 1876 Marriage Act
AustriaAustria Austria 1938 Law to standardize the law of marriage and divorce in Austria and the rest of the country. 6 July 1938. RGBl. I p. 807, No. 106 of July 8, 1938
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 1907 Civil Code
FranceFrance France 1792; 1884 In France, civil divorce was first introduced during the French Revolution (September 20, 1792). With the return to the monarchy in 1816 it was abolished again. It was only included again in the Civil Code with the Divorce Act of July 27, 1884 .
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act 1857. Before this law was passed, divorce was only possible through a parliamentary act, which because of its high cost was only considered for the very wealthy.
IrelandIreland Ireland 1995 In Ireland the possibility of divorce was introduced by the 15th amendment to the constitution . This constitutional amendment was only approved by a narrow majority in a referendum (50.25% for and 49.75% against). In 1986 an attempt by the government to change the constitution in this way failed due to a referendum.
ItalyItaly Italy 1970 In Italy, the divorce was made possible by parliament against the resistance of the Catholic Church and this decision was confirmed in a 1974 referendum.
MaltaMalta Malta 2011 Malta was the last EU state to allow divorce from July 2011 . In a referendum in May 2011, the majority of the population supported the introduction of divorce in Malta.
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 1811 Introduction of the French Civil Code (after the incorporation of the Netherlands into Napoleonic France )
PolandPoland Poland 1946 Divorce became possible only after the establishment of the People's Republic of Poland .
RomaniaRomania Romania 1865 In Romania, marriage and divorce had been regulated by the French-influenced Civil Code (Codul civil al României) since 1865.
SwedenSweden Sweden 1734 1734 års lag (Civil Code of 1734)
SpainSpain Spain 1932; 1981 In Spain, divorce under civil law first became possible in 1932. After coming to power in 1936, dictator Franco abolished both civil marriage and divorce. It was not until June 24, 1981, that a law was passed in the Spanish Parliament allowing divorces.
HungaryHungary Hungary 1894 Act XXXI of 1894.
BangladeshBangladesh Bangladesh 1939 The country, which became independent in 1971, took over the legal regulation of the divorce from Pakistan from which it emerged (Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act).
IndiaIndia India 1954 Special Marriage Act, 1954. In India, there are also various other laws that regulate divorces among members of different faith communities.
IndonesiaIndonesia Indonesia 1974 In the largest Muslim country on earth, men and women have been able to apply for divorce since 1974. Until then, only men had been able to submit such an application.
JapanJapan Japan 1898 Civil law marriage based on the European model, including the possibility of divorce, was introduced in Japan in 1898 with the Meiji Civil Code (明治 民法). According to tradition, divorce was possible beforehand and was also widespread.
PakistanPakistan Pakistan 1939 Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act
PhilippinesPhilippines Philippines - In the Philippines, which at that time were still a Spanish colony, the Spanish Civil Code came into force in 1889. Divorce is not provided for in Philippine civil law to this day.
RussiaRussia Russia 1917 Divorce under civil law was first made possible in Russia on December 19, 1917 by a Soviet law. Until then, divorces there had come under the jurisdiction of the very anti-divorce Russian Orthodox Church .
TurkeyTurkey Turkey 1926 Reform of the Turkish Civil Code; until then, only men could afford a divorce.
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 1950 In the People's Republic of China, divorce was possible on the basis of the New Marriage Act (新 婚姻法) passed on May 1, 1950, almost from the time that state was founded. As early as the time of the Tang Dynasty , the Chinese Empire had laws that made divorce possible.
NigeriaNigeria Nigeria 1970 Matrimonial Causes Act (today: Cap.M7 Laws of the Federation 2004)
BrazilBrazil Brazil 1977 Law 6.515 of December 26th, 1977. The 1916 Civil Code allowed cancellation under very limited conditions.
ChileChile Chile 2003/2004 Chile was the last South American state to allow divorce.
CanadaCanada Canada 1968 Canada received a uniform divorce law with the Divorce Act of 1968 . Until then, most of its provinces and territories had divorce law based on the British Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 .
MexicoMexico Mexico 1870 1870 Código Civil Federal; The Law of Civil Matrimony, which preceded it in 1859, had determined a separation of marriage law from canon law, but did not yet allow divorces.
United StatesUnited States United States 1776 In the United States, family law, and therefore divorce law, is not a federal responsibility, but a state jurisdiction . Divorce was an option in all states. The major political movements on divorce law that formed from the 19th century onwards aimed at liberalizing divorce law, in particular at the abolition of the principle of fault.

Legal circles

African legal family

Asian legal family

European legal family

economic aspects

Stephen Jenkins ( Institute for Social and Economic Research , Council of the International Association for Research on Income and Wealth ) found in a long-term study that men in Great Britain improved significantly economically after a divorce, whereas women worsened. This statement is often true even if it is not a question of fathers and mothers, i.e. the question of caring for children is not an issue.

In contrast, the study found the economic consequences of separation and divorce on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs: Although the labor force participation of divorced households is slightly higher than that of married couples, households of divorced and separated people are clearly over-represented in the lower income brackets. Divorced men are less affected by the negative effects than divorced women.

Since the maintenance law reform of 2008 , single parents in Germany can only expect childcare support from their ex-partner if their child is younger than three years, unless they are entitled to equitable maintenance ( e.g. when no childcare option is available).

The pension entitlements acquired during the marriage are generally divided equally in Germany. However, since 2009 there has been the option of a spouse opting for an individual solution - e. B. in a company pension scheme - decides to compensate disadvantages in the event of a divorce. An expansion of the maintenance obligations for long marriages planned for 2013 should raise the amount of the lifelong maintenance claims for long marriages beyond the amount limited by marriage-related disadvantages.

Psychological perspective

Common reasons for separation

The empirical state of research on the importance of psychological factors in connection with a divorce is relatively well secured, even if further (especially longitudinal) studies are necessary to further clarify the meaning of the individual variables and their interplay. The following factors have been systematically examined as part of divorce research in recent years:

  • Insufficient homogeneity of the partners: A high degree of agreement between the partners in important areas (values, expectations, goals, interests) goes hand in hand with greater stability of the relationship
  • Attachment style : Correlations between a secure attachment style and a higher quality of partnership have been documented, the level of knowledge about the importance of the attachment style for divorce is still too little known
  • Relationship - related self-efficacy : the feeling that one's own commitment to the relationship has an impact seems to be important for the quality of couple relationships, but needs further investigation
  • Belief in the partnership: the greater the belief in the future viability of the partnership, the more favorable it is for the continued existence of the couple
  • Unrealistic expectations: Unrealistic expectations are dysfunctional for the quality and stability of partner relationships
  • Commitment: The results indicate that commitment (e.g. when making decisions) in the partnership correlates with its course and outcome
  • Unfavorable attribution style : this variable is associated with low relationship satisfaction and an unfavorable relationship development; longer-term effects have not yet been investigated
  • Stress : Couples with high stress show a significantly more negative outcome and a higher risk of divorce
  • dysfunctional individual coping : dysfunctional coping is more common in dissatisfied couples. In addition, the variable turns out to be a negative variable for the partnership interaction and the course of a couple relationship. Couples who deal inappropriately with stress are at higher risk of divorce.
  • Deficits in partnership coping: This variable has proven to be a main predictor for the quality of a couple relationship and its course in various studies.
  • Introversion and extraversion : the meaning of these two personality traits are ambiguous and contradictory
  • Neuroticism : High levels of neuroticism are a risk factor for divorce
  • Psychopathy : high psychopathy values ​​are considered risk factors for the quality and stability of partnerships

As was shown in a study from 2018, partnerships that were founded at a very young age, namely before graduation, often break up when the man's entry into the profession is difficult; In this case, the initiative for separation usually comes from the woman. Conversely, the success of the woman's career entry does not seem to have any significant influence on partner stability.

Breakup narratives

The sociologist Frank Furstenberg described in 1987 how divorced people, in order to free themselves from the burden of the failure of their marriage, sharply distance themselves from their former partner with a vehemence that is reminiscent of a “ritual taboo”.

The position in the religions


In Judaism , divorce is a complex act that represents a correction of the past: Similar to how repentance re-establishes a bond between man and YHWH that was severed in the past, divorce can retrospectively break the bond between two souls. The regulation can be found in a few lines of the Torah . A divorce is possible at any time without justification from both sides. However, problems have existed for centuries when a woman wants a divorce. The man has to let her go and may not refuse to give her the letter of divorce ( get ). But since - except in Israel - the get is nowhere enforceable, an aguna is not allowed to remarry .


Most Western churches categorically opposed divorce well into the 20th century. The Roman Catholic Church and the majority of the Pietist, Anabaptist and Charismatic churches hold on to it to varying degrees to this day. The basis for the restrictive assessment is Matthew 19.3–9  EU : Jesus here strongly opposes the Mosaic divorce letter, subject to the so-called fornication clause (but even more restrictive with the background of the fall of the southern empire: Mal 2.10–16  EU ) .

Roman Catholic Church

According to the legal understanding of the Roman Catholic Church , divorce is only possible in two very limited cases: If one of the two spouses who were both unbaptized at the time of the marriage is baptized and the person remaining unbaptized does not accept the Christian faith and either therefore wants to separate or “blaspheme the Creator”, then the baptized partner can enter into a new marriage with a baptized person, which dissolves the first (non-sacramental) marriage ( Pauline privilege ).

Second, the Pope can grant the dissolution of the marriage if the marriage has not been consummated; however, this grant is extremely rare. This is not to be confused with the impotentia coeundi (so-called marriage hindrance of divine law ), in which the subsequent annulment of a marriage is possible (protective canon against "alibi marriages"). In the latter case, the marriage is deemed to have never been effectively contracted, while if the Pope dissolves an incomplete marriage, it remains that the marriage actually existed, so that one can speak of a divorce. The situation is different with marriage annulment , which presupposes that a marriage has not come about properly.

In cases of marriage breakdown or adultery or the like, in particular cases of hardship (for example in the case of a “ cuckoo child ” or manifest violence ), the church only admits the “separation of table and bed” ( lat. Separatio quoad torum et mensam ), but not the divorce too. This is justified by the fact that Catholic marriage is a sacrament and indissoluble. Unless there are reasons for separating table and bed, the divorced person remains committed to marital cohabitation, and in this case also to chastity , since the marriage bond continues. In the case of permanent separation of table and bed, which must be communicated to the church, divorce is also permitted, if necessary, remarriage is not permitted because the church sees in it the revocation of marital fidelity, in which the church sees the irrevocability of love God's celebrates. Therefore , whoever lives in such a contradicting situation is not allowed to take part in Holy Communion . In 2017 under Pope Francis with the letter Amoris laetitia , the conscientious decision of those affected was honored in exceptional cases, so that admission to the sacraments can be permitted in individual cases for reasons of mercy . Pope Francis had previously convened an extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2014 on the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization, at which pastoral care for divorced remarried people was also discussed. In December 2014, the German Bishops' Conference published a collection of texts on the 2014 Synod of Bishops, in which, among other things, the “responsible and pastorally appropriate ways of accompanying remarried divorced people” are addressed. At the same time, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Reinhard Marx, warned against divorce and remarriage; these often led to a distancing from the church.

Even divorced people who are not baptized cannot enter into a new valid marriage with a Catholic partner because they are bound by the nature of the marriage through the civil marriage.

Eastern Churches

According to Orthodox teaching, the Old Testament law is given through Christ; if he allowed a divorce "because of the hardness of heart", his statement in the New Testament is not to be understood as a contradiction to it (for God does not contradict himself), but as a warning against divorce that is taken lightly. In this sense, the Orthodox Churches apply a principle of mercy ( oikonomia ) in practice. The Eastern Orthodox Churches (Orthodox Churches in the narrower sense) allow a maximum of three marriages. The ceremony for a remarriage is, however, far less solemn than that for a first marriage; rather the thought of repentance prevails. A year of strict penance is required before a third church wedding.

Protestant churches

Since 1970 at the latest, divorce has been generally recognized in the Protestant regional churches in Germany, in many Protestant " Mainline Churches " in the United States, and in moderate Protestant churches in other western industrialized countries. In the evangelical mainstream literature, there is a wide range of opinions expressed, both about divorce as remarriage. On the Protestant side, marriage is considered an element of the “good secular order”; according to Martin Luther , it is not a sacrament and can be securely dissolved. Generally, remarriage is seen as permissible, where divorce is also seen as permissible. In general, all authors agree based on 1 Cor 7.10f. ELB and other biblical passages on the following issues: Remarriage is possible if the divorce took place before turning to the Christian faith. Divorce is considered permissible if one partner is immoral, violent, or unrepentant over harsh injustices. If a Christian is married to a non-Christian (or non-Christian), the Christian part may in principle not request a divorce, except in the case of violence. However, if the non-Christian part wants a divorce, the Christian part can consent. Widows are allowed to remarry ( 1 Cor 7:39  ELB ).


In Islam there is the possibility of divorce in some differentiations (→ divorce of an Islamic marriage ; Talaq on the part of the man; Chulla on the part of the woman).


In Bahaitum , divorce is basically possible if there is strong dislike between the spouses and a year of separation is observed. In principle, however, divorce is frowned upon because marriage is viewed as an eternal, sacred, and both physical and spiritual bond. Man and woman are together in this and, after physical death, in the next - spiritual - world. In general, great emphasis is placed on harmony and unity in social relationships. Problems within the marriage should be overcome by counseling one another and, if necessary, with third parties. Spouses should be patient with one another and avoid any anger.

However, once the year of separation is over, there is nothing formal in the way of a divorce. A further reason for the divorce, apart from the implied alienation of the spouses, is then not necessary. Remarriage is only possible after the end of the year of separation and does not require any further conditions apart from honesty about the previous marriage and the normal marriage requirements. During the year of separation, the main breadwinner has the duty to continue to provide for the spouse. In the case of children, care for them should continue to be ensured by both spouses.

The Baha'i institutions are supposed to support married couples in coping with their problems and act as mediator in the event of a divorce.

If a spouse disappears without a trace, the year of divorce must also be observed. Domestic violence and betraying or leaving a partner behind are prohibited.


Web links

Wiktionary: divorce  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Divorce  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. In the Philippines there is at most a right of divorce for Muslims with certain restrictions. Presidential Decree No. 1083 ( Memento from October 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ Carlos H. Conde: Philippines Stands All but Alone in Banning Divorce. New York Times, June 17, 2011, accessed January 5, 2014 .
  3. ^ Divorce and Women in France. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  4. ^ Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. Retrieved May 26, 2018 (legal text).
  5. ^ A brief history of divorce. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  6. http://www.irlandlexikon.de/?letter=S
  7. taz: And don't tempt politicians
  8. ^ Kath.net: Malta and Marriage July 27, 2010
  9. Stern: Citizens speak out in favor of divorces
  10. Emese of Bone: The historical development of grounds for divorce in the French and Dutch Civil Code. Retrieved May 27, 2018 .
  11. ^ Barbara Łobodzińska: Divorce in Poland: Its Legislation, Distribution and Social Context. Retrieved May 27, 2018 . William J. Goode: World Changes in Divorce Patterns . Yale University Press, New Haven, London 1993, ISBN 0-300-05537-4 , pp. 121 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  12. Family Policies: Romania (2014). Retrieved May 28, 2018 .
  13. ^ Johan Thorsten Sellin: Marriage and Divorce Legislation in Sweden. Retrieved May 27, 2018 .
  14. 1932 - Act on Divorce (1932). Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  15. ^ Women and politics in Spain. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  16. Spain Passes Divorce Law After 40-year Ban. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  17. ^ Dissolution of Marriage in Hungarian Law. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  18. Pakistan: The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act. Retrieved May 27, 2018 .
  19. ^ Marriage and Divorce under Special Marriage Act, 1954. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  20. ^ How to Divorce in Indonesia. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  21. Jun'ichi Akiba, Minoru Ishikawa: Marriage and Divorce Regulation and Recognition in Japan. Retrieved May 28, 2018 .
  22. Jeff Kingston: Divorce was a tradition, the taboo an invention. Retrieved May 28, 2018 .
  23. Pakistan: The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act. Retrieved May 27, 2018 .
  24. ^ Civil Code (approved by Royal Decree of July 24, 1889). Retrieved May 28, 2018 . Divorce in the Philippines: A Legal History. Retrieved May 28, 2018 .
  25. Some aspects of marriage and divorce laws in Soviet Russia. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  26. ^ A review of Turkish divorce law. Retrieved May 27, 2018 .
  27. ^ Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  28. ^ A Glimpse of Ancient Chinese Divorce Systems. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  29. ^ Family law in Nigeria: overview. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  30. ^ Brazil, Civil Code. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  31. ^ Divorce Law in Canada. Archived from the original on May 27, 2018 ; accessed on May 26, 2018 .
  32. ^ Stephanie J. Smith: Gender and the Mexican Revolution . The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2009, ISBN 978-0-8078-3284-4 , pp. 120 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  33. ^ The History Of Divorce Law In The USA. Retrieved May 26, 2018 .
  34. Jochen Flegl: Separation and divorce by Italian Family law 1 March 2013
  35. ^ The Italian separation of table and bed February 1, 2013 (on OLG Stuttgart, decision of January 17, 2013 - 17 WF 251/12)
  36. Amelia Hill: Men become richer after divorce. The Observer January 25, 2009
  37. PDF at www.bmfsfj.de ( Memento from January 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  38. Retirement provision: What are the financial effects of the divorce? In: welt.de . May 25, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2018 .
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  40. Nina Heinrichs, Guy Bodenmann, Kurt Hallweg: “Prevention in couples and families”. Göttingen: Hogrefe Verlag, 2008, p. 23.
  41. ^ Valerie Heintz-Martin, Cordula Zabel: The stability of partnerships across the transition from education to employment . In: Journal of Youth Studies . 2018, doi : 10.1080 / 13676261.2018.1562164 .
  42. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr .: Continued marriage . A new pattern of life and its consequences. In: social world . tape 38 , 1987, pp. 29-39 . ; preview
  43. ^ Karl Sudhoff : A regulation for the forensic examination of male impotence in divorce suits from the middle of the 15th century. In: Sudhoffs Archiv 8, 1915, pp. 89-97.
  44. According to Codex Iuris Canonici ( Memento of June 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), Can. 1084 § 2
  45. ^ Theodor Schmalz : Encyclopedia of the common law . Friedrich Nicolovius , Königsberg 1790, p. 147 ( limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed November 27, 2019]).
  46. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church KKK, 1665, 2384
  47. ^ Youcat 265
  48. Pope convenes a Synod of Special Bishops on Family for 2014
  49. http://www.dbk.de/presse/details/?presseid=2705&cHash=2c91fd111e98b76c9a1316e369dbd3d2
  50. welt.de: Evenings for remarried should be possible
  51. ↑ Mixed marriage. In: bz-bx.net. Diocese of Bozen-Brixen, accessed on April 2, 2014 .
  52. http://www.paderzeitung.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11319&Itemid=279
  53. The Basics of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church . On: orthodoxeurope.org, section X.3.
  54. Volker Leppin : Marriage with Martin Luther. Foundation of God and "worldly thing" , in: Evangelical Theology , Volume 75, Issue 1, February 12, 2015
  55. [2] (PDF; 2.1 MB) Journal of religious culture
  56. Charles Swindoll: Light the Old Fire. From a duel in marriage back to a duet. Francke, Marburg an der Lahn 1984, ISBN 3-88224-360-0 , pp. 119f.
  57. Peter Smith: Art. Divorce . in: Peter Smith: A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith . Oneworld-Publications, Oxford 1999, ISBN 978-1-85168-184-6 , pp. 123-124 .
  58. According to the teaching of the Baha'i, the human soul lives on after physical death. In the hereafter, the immortal soul retains memories of earthly life and its cognitive abilities, which includes the knowledge of the spouse. On the whole, Hushidar Motlag: and to him we return. About the human soul, its reality and its immortality. From the writings of the Bahá'í religion . Bahá'í-Verlag, Hofheim 1990, ISBN 3-87037-243-5 , 9.16.