There are several approaches that a couple can take when they want to end their marriage. These primarily include: divorce, dissolution, annulment, and to a certain extent, legal separation. Although “dissolution of marriage” sounds as if it could apply to all of these methods, it actually refers to a specific procedure.
The term “dissolution of marriage,” is defined as a legal process that terminates a marriage or civil union. In some ways, it is very similar to getting a divorce.
The main difference between divorce and dissolution is that dissolution almost always operates in the same manner as a no-fault divorce. This simply means that when a couple wants to file for dissolution, neither party is required to show evidence of wrongdoing.
In contrast, some states require that the couple show fault (wrongdoing) when filing for a divorce. This is known as a fault-based or at-fault divorce.
As for the other options mentioned, annulment and legal separation, they also have rules that differ from those found in a dissolution of marriage proceeding.
In general, annulment completely erases the marriage, so it is like the marriage never existed. Legal separation involves a binding agreement and does not always end in divorce. It is comparable to taking a break from a relationship.
Legal separation, however, does share one thing in common with a dissolution of marriage procedure — they both require the couple to enter into a particular type of agreement.
Since dissolution and divorce are often used interchangeably, it is extremely important to recognize their differences. While both options allow a couple to terminate their marriage permanently, dissolution has stricter requirements. However, it is generally an easier process.
Other ways in which dissolution and divorce differ include:
- Being married for a relatively short time (usually, less than five years);
- Having no natural or adopted children resulting from the marriage;
- Owning little to no property together;
- Giving up the right to spousal support or alimony; and
- Forming a marital dissolution agreement.
Also, because the couple must agree on the content that they include in their marital dissolution agreement, dissolution is typically cheaper, faster, and less complicated than filing for divorce. It is considered more of a routine matter, as opposed to divorce, which may cause a lawsuit and involve various legal issues. This is why dissolution is considered an easier process.
As discussed, dissolution is frequently confused with having the same definition as divorce. This could be due to the fact that in some states, these terms may refer to the same thing. For these reasons, it might be more helpful to consult a local attorney, rather than attempting to interpret state laws on your own.
The most important step of the dissolution process is to create a marital dissolution agreement. A couple may not file a petition for dissolution with the court until this agreement is formed. Also, the agreement must be entered into voluntarily by both parties.
The basic reason for the agreement is to show that the couple has mutually consented to live separately from one another. Additionally, it is used to determine various issues, such as:
- Dividing property or shared financial assets;
- Deciding on parental duties (only applicable in some states);
- Defining how to split the responsibility for any marital debt that the couple may have incurred; and
- Stating the reasons for dissolution (this is optional).
The couple must accept every provision that is included in this document. Once the parties have reached an agreement in full, they will each sign it, and then file it with the appropriate court; usually, a family law court.
After the agreement is finalized, then they can file for a petition for dissolution of marriage. In some states, at least one of the parties must be a resident of the state in which the couple is filing it in, for a specified amount of time (usually, six months).
Finally, despite the essential reason for the agreement, some jurisdictions require that the parties already be living apart for a particular period before they can even file for dissolution.
Again, many of these details depend on the laws of the state in which the couple is filing for dissolution. Each state may have different laws when it comes to dissolution of a marriage.
The dissolution of marriage process generally requires the assistance of a lawyer. A lawyer be able to help prepare and file the various documents that are necessary for filing a petition for dissolution. Also, by hiring a local family lawyer, they can guide you through the important details and differences mandated by your state’s laws.
Lastly, you should consider contacting an attorney for your marital dissolution agreement. They will ensure that the agreement is fairly and properly executed, and that all of your interests are protected.