(England Twitter)-Western jurisdictions, divorce (legally referred to as 'dissolution of marriage') does not require a party to assert fault on the part of their partner leading to the breakdown of their marriage. Prior to the onset of 'no-fault' statutes, a party would have to prove a ground, typically 'desertion,' 'abandonment,' 'cruelty,' or 'adultery.' The requirement of proving a ground was revised (and withdrawn) by the terms of 'no-fault' statutes, which became popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 'no-fault' jurisdictions, a simple, general allegation of 'irreconcilable differences,' or 'irretrievable break-down' with respect to the marriage relationship, sufficed to establish the end of the marriage.
In jurisdictions adopting the 'no-fault' principle in divorce proceedings, some courts may still take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody and support - facts which almost always have considerable weight in fault proceedings.. This is particularly true in custody cases, where the courts might consider many factors which mirror 'fault' grounds, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, violence, cruelty, instability, neglect and possibly the preference of an intelligent, mature child.
Despite this, in some countries (or states of the United States), the courts will seldom apply principles of fault, but might willingly hold a party liable for a breach of a fiduciary duty to his or her spouse (See for example, Family Code Sections 720 and 1100 of the California Family Code).
In most jurisdictions, a divorce must be certified (or ordered by a Judge) by a court of law to become effective. The terms of the divorce are usually determined by the court, 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). In the absence of agreement, a contested divorce may be stressful to the spouses. Contested divorces mean that one of several issues are required to be heard by a judge at trial level - this is more expensive and the parties will have to pay for a lawyer's time and preparation. Less adversarial approaches to divorce settlements have recently emerged, such as mediation and collaborative divorce settlement, which negotiate mutually acceptable resolution to conflicts. This principle in the United States is called 'Alternative Dispute Resolution' and continues to gain popularity.
In some other countries, when the spouses agree to divorce and to the terms of the divorce, it can be certified by a non-judiciary administrative entity. The effect of a divorce is that both parties are free to marry again.
The subject of divorce as a social phenomenon is an important research topic in sociology. In many developed countries, divorce rates increased markedly during the twentieth century. Among the nations in which divorce has become commonplace are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia and Scandinavia. The only Western countries where divorce is illegal are Malta and the British Crown Dependency of Sark.