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Am Jur 2d - Divorce and Separation § 1

I. Divorce and Separation Proceedings, Generally, A. Nature and Validity, 1. In General, § 1 - Generally

Divorce is effected by a judicial decree which terminates the marital relationship and changes the legal status of married parties.[1] The two types of divorce which the courts can order are called absolute divorce, or "divorce a vinculo matrimonii,"[2] and limited divorce, called "divorce a mensa et thoro."[3]


Absolute divorce, or divorce "a vinculo matrimonii," is a judicial dissolution of the marriage ordered as a result of marital misconduct or other statutory cause arising after the marriage ceremony,[4] whereas limited divorce, sometimes referred to as divorce" a mensa et thoro," "divorce from bed and board," or legal separation is a change in status by which the parties are separated and are precluded from cohabitation,[5] but the actual marriage is not affected.[6]

The primary effect to be accomplished by a divorce or dissolution is the separation of the parties in a manner that enables each to continue his or her life as free as possible from entanglement with the other.[7]


A petition for dissolution of marriage advances a single claim, that is, a request for an order dissolving the parties' marriage, and the other issues in a dissolution case, including custody and support, do not represent separate, unrelated claims, but rather, they are separate issues relating to the same claim.[8]

A limited divorce decree can be revoked, under most statutes providing for such a decree, upon petition to the court and satisfactory proof of reconciliation.[9]

The validity of a divorce granted by a state legislature was recognized early in our country's history.[10]

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1   Seuss v. Schukat, 358 Ill. 27, 192 N.E. 668, 95 A.L.R. 1461 (1934) .

2   Williams v. Williams, 33 Ariz. 367, 265 P. 87, 61 A.L.R. 1264 (1928) .

3   Kelley v. Kelley, 183 Or. 169, 191 P.2d 656 (1948) .

4   Millar v. Millar, 175 Cal. 797, 167 P. 394 (1917) .

5   McLendon v. McLendon, 277 Ala. 323, 169 So. 2d 767 (1964) ; Williams v. Williams, 33 Ariz. 367, 265 P. 87, 61 A.L.R. 1264 (1928) ; Brewer v. Brewer, 242 S.C. 9, 129 S.E.2d 736 (1963) ; Gloth v. Gloth, 154 Va. 511, 153 S.E. 879, 71 A.L.R. 700 (1930) .

6   Pettis v. Pettis, 91 Conn. 608, 101 A. 13, 4 A.L.R. 852 (1917) .

7   Ward v. Ward, 41 Or. App. 447, 599 P.2d 1150 (1979) .

8   In re Marriage of Hill, 166 P.3d 269 (Colo. Ct. App. 2007) ; In re Marriage of Capitani, 368 Ill. App. 3d 486, 306 Ill. Dec. 750, 858 N.E.2d 547 (2d Dist. 2006) , appeal denied, 223 Ill. 2d 631, 310 Ill. Dec. 247, 865 N.E.2d 967 (2007) .
 The purpose of a dissolution action is to sever the marital relationship, to fix the rights of the parties with respect to alimony and child support, and to divide the marital estate. Roose v. Roose, 84 Conn. App. 415, 853 A.2d 642 (2004) .

9   Williams v. Williams, 33 Ariz. 367, 265 P. 87, 61 A.L.R. 1264 (1928) ; Cecil v. Farmers Nat. Bank, 245 S.W.2d 430 (Ky. 1951) .
 As to the differences between actions for divorce and actions for separate maintenance, see § 5 .

10   Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 8 S. Ct. 723, 31 L. Ed. 654 (1888) ; Worthington v. District Court of Second Judicial Dist. in and for Washoe County, 37 Nev. 212, 142 P. 230 (1914) .

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