Summary dissolution is a kind of divorce where a marriage is terminated without a court hearing. The requirements for summary dissolution vary slightly from state to state, but all states require that the divorce be uncontested. This means that both parties agree to the divorce and its terms. If they do, then the couple may start the dissolution by filing a joint petition.

The advantage of summary dissolution is that it is simpler to obtain and can be completed in less time than a regular divorce. The disadvantage is that there is a waiting period in between the filing and the final decree. Thus, if either spouse changes his or her mind during that time, they can revoke the action and the process must be started over from scratch.

What Are the Requirements for Summary Dissolution?

The requirements for summary dissolution vary from state to state. They often include that: 

  • One or both spouses are residents of the state in which the divorce action is filed; the length of residency varies, but it is usually around 6 months or 1 year
  • The marriage does not exceed a certain time limit, usually 5 or 10 years
  • The spouses have no minor children born to the spouses or adopted by the spouses during or before the marriage
  • The spouses have no offspring over 18 in school
  • The wife cannot be pregnant
  • The spouses own no property in any state
  • The personal assets of both or either spouse not exceed a certain sum, usually around $20,000; the debts accrued by either or both spouses during the marriage not exceed a certain sum, usually around $15,000
  • Asking for alimony, or spousal support, will slow the dissolution down

Where Is Summary Dissolution Available?

Summary dissolutions are available in many states, such as California and Oregon. Other states, such as New York, offer a similar process called summary divorce. Since laws vary from state to state, you should meet with a divorce lawyer in your state to see what your options are. Currently, summary dissolutions cannot be used to end domestic partnerships; summary dissolutions can only be applied to marriages.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Summary Dissolution?

The court process for obtaining any kind of divorce, including summary dissolution, can be very confusing and stressful. Because of this, it may be beneficial to consult a divorce lawyer. Working with an experienced lawyer will help you understand your rights and options.