Divorce Is Temporary

"You've got an old-fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, 'til death do us part.' Why, divorce doesn't mean anything nowadays, Hildy, just a few words mumbled over you by a judge."

Alice and Bob's relationship went sour, to say the very least. Maybe they absolutely hate each others' guts, now. Maybe they bicker over custody of their kids. Maybe they separated amicably. Whatever the reason, the papers are signed, bam. Done. Finito.

Of course, the plotline doesn't let them stay separate for long. Anything from their meddling kids to an Apocalypse How will force them together again - by coincidence, happenstance, or old feelings simply being rekindled. Whatever it is, however messy the split-up was, it's all undone by the end of the story.

See also First Father Wins for the fate of anyone new the mom dates post divorce. Compare Comedy of Remarriage. Often brought about by a Parent Trap Plot.

As this is a ending trope, Unmarked Spoilers Ahead!


Comic Books
  • In The Golden Age, Johnny Chambers considers retying the knot with his ex-wife Libby Lawrence near the end of the story.

Fan Fiction
  • In the Rise of the Guardians story Guardian of Light, Helen's adoptive parents, Bernadette and Lowell, split up when she and her siblings were younger. They are shown arguing at the beginning of the story, but when the kids apparently go missing, the couple put aside their differences in order to find them. This makes them realize that they can't even remember what they started fighting about in the first place, and they're back together by the end of the fic.

  • In both versions of The Parent Trap, the twins actively invoke this.
  • In Mr. Popper's Penguins the titular animal-owner seems to be rekindling his relationship with his ex-wife and the mother of his children as a result of the animals' humanizing influence.
  • What a Girl Wants plays this with Libby and Henry. Apparently nearly twenty years of estrangement can be fixed with one magical evening at the ball. Justified in that the split was due to a lie of Henry's Evil Mentor rather than any actual problems between the two, and once said mentor is out of the picture they can try again without his interference.
  • In Liar Liar, Fletcher and Audrey get back together in the final scene. They of course ask their son if he made another birthday wish to cause it.
  • Troop Beverly Hills ends with Fred seeing Phyllis's dedication to the scout troop, and realized she was not so "flighty" after all.
  • Intentionally subverted with Mrs. Doubtfire. The executives wanted a happy ending, but the writers felt it would be a disservice to real children with divorced parents and pulled a Writer Revolt. The film even ends with a voiceover stating that sometimes divorced parents get back together... but sometimes divorce is really the best option for everyone involved.
  • Taken to extremes in The Marrying Man where a guy marries the same woman four times.
  • In Outbreak Daniels and Robby start the film divorced but end it reconciled.
  • In The Day After Tomorrow Jack and Lucy Hall start the film divorced but end it moving toward reconciliation after Jack risks his life to rescue their son from frozen New York.
  • In Independence Day, David realizes the aliens are planning to attack. He enlists his father to drive him from New York City to Washington, DC so he can warn the President. David's ex-wife Constance happens to be the President's aide. By the end of the film, David is a hero who's helped saved the world, and he and Connie are on the road to reconciliation.
  • In Armageddon, Charles "Chick" Chapple (Will Patton) is legally barred from being around his ex-wife and son whom he hasn't seen in a really long time. After learning of his part-taking in saving the world, she seems to forgive his former grievances and give their relationship another try upon his returning home.
  • The hero of 2012 and his wife also reconcile, due to her Love Interest failing to survive just as they finally make it to safety. Basically any Roland Emmerich Film
  • In Definitely, Maybe, this is played with in that Maya believes in this trope, but it's eventually averted and she accepts that her father (played by Ryan Reynolds) and her mother won't get back together.
  • She's The Man has Viola's parents getting back together after the final soccer game, despite spending years apart.
  • The ending of Crazy Stupid Love implies that Cal and Emily may get back together, or at least stay good friends. What makes this complicated (and is unaddressed at the end) is that Emily may or may not still be dating the guy with whom she cheated on Cal in the first placenote  and Cal having had nine one-night stands.
  • Played with in The Other Woman. Emilia's parents wind up together again. She and Jack might. Much to William's dismay, this doesn't happen with his birth parents when Jack and Emilia split.
  • Zig-zagged in Enchanted. Robert and and his wife divorced before the movie and show no signs of hooking back up again. This is one of the reasons he worries so much about his daughter having fairy tale-esque expectations from the world and getting disappointed. Later in the movie though, Gisselle runs into a couple in the middle of a divorce who hired Robert. Giselle compliments the wife's beautiful eyes, which gets the couple to remember what they loved about each other to begin with, prompting them to call off the divorce and causing Robert to realize that fairy tale things can sometimes happen in real life.
  • In National Treasure: Book of Secrets, apparently all Ben's parents needed after thirty-two years of divorce and hating each other was one last treasure hunt adventure to reignite their spark.


Live-Action TV
  • The Odd Couple: One of the premises of the Neil Simon comedy was that both male leads Felix Unger and Oscar Madison were divorced. While Oscar continued to have a stormy relationship with his ex, for Felix (at least in the TV adaptation), his divorce from ex-wife Gloria was temporary ... and the two were re-married in the series' finale, aptly titled "Felix Remarries."
  • Subverted in Pretty Little Liars. Aria's parents separated, got back together for a bit, then divorced for good.
  • Averted on The Wire. In a season 3 episode McNulty and his ex-wife have a passionate one night stand, the next morning he thinks they're back together but she insists that its just a one time thing and they never get back together for the remainder of the series.
  • Entourage had a last season arc involving Ari and Mrs. Ari being separated, and eventually her asking for a divorce. Eventually Ari realizes that shock, it's not Ari himself that she wants the divorce from, but the fact he has become an absentee father and husband because of his career. When he finally figures it out, he ditches work and she takes him back.
  • In The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Amy's parents get back together for a while, but split up again. They're still good friends at the end of the series.
  • In 24, Tony and Michelle are divorced between Seasons 3 and 4 due to Tony's becoming an alcoholic after being sent to prison and losing his job over betraying CTU to save Michelle. After the events of Season 4, they're back together.
  • Played with in Frasier. Niles and Maris break up and get back together at least twice with Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other overtones, but this is retroactively depicted as a bad idea. It's acknowledged that Niles went back to Maris because of insecurity and self-delusion, and that they should have stayed broken up. When they divorce, they again threaten to backslide several times, but in the end it's for keeps.
    • Frasier and Lilith tend to play with this idea throughout the show, but nothing ever comes of it.
  • The Sopranos pulls this without even getting to the divorce. Season 4 ends with a violent confrontation between Tony and Carmella and she insists that they separate. A season later he's Out-Gambitted her in the divorce proceedings because he's talked to most of the major divorce attorneys in town and the others won't take Carmella's case because of Tony's reputation. Later on he wins her back and they stay together for the rest of the series.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Asylum Of the Daleks" begins with Amy and Rory signing divorce papers but getting kidnapped by Daleks before they could file them. Later in the episode, Amy admits to Rory that she only broke up with him because she learned she could no longer have children and since she couldn't make him a father she decided that she should give him up so he could find someone who could. Rory insists that he doesn't care about any of that and he still loves her as much as he ever did. By the end of the episode they're back together and the divorce papers are forgotten.
  • In Desperate Housewives Gabrielle, Susan and Lynette divorced and remarried their husbands.
  • Full House: The bratty son of Danny's current girlfriend admits that the reason he's made so much trouble for the Tanner family is because he believes that his parents are going to reconcile and wants to ensure this by driving Danny away. For some reason, it's Danny rather than his own mother who gently explains that this is unlikely, but given that the woman later disappears without an explanation, the kid may have been right.
  • Baywatch: Mitch and his ex-wife Gail made several attempts at reconciling, nearly remarrying at one point.
  • A pretty standard trope of soap operas of course. The vast majority of their supercouples have been divorced and remarried multiple times.
  • In Carrusel, Carmen's parents separate for a short time, but they do get back together promptly afterwards. It is never stated whether the parents had even filed for divorce or not, though.

Web Comic

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: Milhouse's parents get divorced, then several seasons later get back together.
  • An early episode of South Park played out this plot with Randy and Sharon Marsh. Within a few days, they break up, Randy moves out and Sharon remarries. By the end of the episode, Randy and Sharon are back together like nothing ever happened. The speed itself is what's Played for Laughs, since Sharon practically tells Stan about the divorce in the same sentence when she introduces his new stepfather, while Randy has already embraced a midlife-crisis style bachelor's lifestyle.
    • Same trope gets played with the same characters, albeit in more dramatic fashion, in season 15's "You're Getting Old" which features Randy and Sharon breaking up and moving into separate residences. The next episode sees them get back together, but this arguably deconstructs the trope as one scene has Sharon explain to Stan that sometimes people have to stick with what they know even if it makes them unhappy. It's obvious that this particular Reset Button deeply upsets Stan.
  • Gargoyles uses this trope with Oberon and Titania, but for immortals "temporary" can mean "1,001 years," during which time they both had relationships and children with other people. It's also implied that Titania had a lot of Character Development over that time, since Oberon's stated reason for the divorce was her immaturity and cruelty to mortals. Yes, Oberon said this.
  • The Weekenders showed Tino hoping for this with was the biggest reason for rejecting his mother's new boyfriend. He got over it after realizing that the new guy genuinely made his mom happy.

Real Life
  • Eddie Guerrero and his wife never got divorced, but they did separate for several years (during which time he had a daughter with another woman), then when they got back together they renewed their vows.
  • Richard Pryor remarried both Flynn Belaine and Jennifer Lee, staying with Lee the second time until his death.
  • After they got divorced, Joe Di Maggio started seeing Marilyn Monroe again, and was about to ask her to marry him again, but she died before that could happen.
  • Subverted with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They got divorced, they remarried, then they got divorced again, for good.
  • John and Alicia Nash.
  • P!nk and Carey Hart separated for several months, but never finalized the divorce and eventually got back together and now have a daughter.
  • Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme and Gladys Portugues
  • Also subverted with George C Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, who divorced after being married for five years, remarried after two years of divorce, and re-divorced after another five years of marriage.
  • Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill.
  • Eminem and Kim Scott had a baby, got married, got divorced, got remarried, and got re-divorced, in that order.

Alternative Title(s):

Temporary Divorce