A divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. Whether the termination of a marriage is deemed legal, and as a result effective, depends on the law of the state or country where the divorce took place. Generally speaking, if the state law recognizes an action to terminate a marriage as a divorce, a marriage no longer exists between the affected parties for immigration law purposes.
For the most part, physical or legal separation (i.e., a separation formalized by a court) of married parties does not constitute the legal termination of a marriage. This is the case even in circumstances where each party of the marriage has no intention of residing with the other again. However, in some instances, a legal separation may be considered a legal termination of a marriage for the purposes of immigration law. This occurs when the law of a state or country converts legal separations automatically into divorces after a period of time.
(Updated 10/4/2012 by AG)
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