Describing a divorce in English

Divorce terminology

When a married couple decides that they don't want to be married anymore, they get divorced.

Sometimes the couple will separate first without getting legally divorced. This can also be called a "trial separation". If they can fix their problems, they might reconcile, which means that they get back together again.

A divorce starts when one of the people files for divorce. This means that they submit the legal paperwork to their local government. The couple and their divorce lawyers figure out how they're going to split their assets. They might get a judge to decide in divorce court, or they might settle out of court.

After the final divorce agreement has been decided, the couple finalizes their divorce by signing a set of papers.

Sometimes a couple will get an annulment instead of a divorce. An annulment is an official statement that the marriage was never real. Reasons to get one include:

  • one of the people was already married when the marriage happened
  • you find out that you are related to each other
  • one person forced the other to get married

Sometimes a couple will sign a prenuptial agreement (or "a prenup", in casual speech) before they get married. This is a contract that specifies how the couple's assets (money and property) will be divided up after the divorce. Couples sometimes get a prenup if one person is a lot wealthier than the other at the beginning of the marriage.

Reasons for divorcing

Some of the reasons that couples get divorced include:

  • The couple grew apart. This means that they started to have different ideas and values. This is a pretty nice way to describe the end of a relationship.
  • Someone committed infidelity. A more casual way to describe this is that one person cheated on the other.
  • Someone in the couple became abusive. Abuse can be physical abuse (hitting someone) or verbal abuse (threating someone or calling them bad words excessively).
  • The couple fell out of love.
  • They couldn't get along with each other. They argued with each other or just got on each other's nerves.

Characterizing a divorce

If you want to describe the emotions of a divorce, you can say:

"She blindsided me with a divorce." - "Blindsiding" someone means doing something that they completely didn't expect.

"It was an amicable split." - This means that both people were still friendly with each other, although they decided to break up.

"I'm going through a messy divorce." - A "messy" divorce happens when the couple are fighting each other legally and can't come to an agreement.

"It was relatively painless." - If a divorce happens pretty easily, you can describe it this way.

Divorces with children

When a divorcing couple has children, there are a few other things to think about.

In many cases, the parents fight over who will get custody of the children. The possibilities are:

  • One parent gets full custody, meaning that the children live with that parent all the time. The other parent might get visitation rights, which means that they can visit the children a certain number of days per month.
  • The parents get joint custody of the children. This means that the children live with one parent for part of the week or part of the year, and live with the other parent for the rest of the time.

When the parents can't agree over who gets to keep the children, you can say that they "are going through a custody battle".

Other times, parents say that they want to "do what's best for the children". This is a common expression.

When one parent takes care of the children, the other might have to pay child support. This is money that the parent pays to help raise the kids. It's different from alimony, which is money that a divorced person might have to pay because their ex-wife or ex-husband doesn't earn as much money.




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