There are numerous different approaches that an individual can take when they want to end their marriage. These options include:
Although the term dissolution of marriage seems as though it could apply to all of the methods listed above, it actually refers to a specific legal procedure. A dissolution of marriage is a legal process which terminates a marriage or a civil union.
In some ways, a dissolution of marriage is similar to getting a divorce. The main difference between a dissolution of marriage and a divorce is that the dissolution of marriage typically operates in the same manner as a no-fault divorce.
This means that when a couple desires to file for dissolution, neither party will be required to show any evidence of wrongdoing. In contrast, certain states require that an individual show fault, or wrongdoing, when they are filing for divorce.
This requirement is known as a fault-based or at-fault divorce. Regarding the other options listed above, including annulment and legal separation, there are also rules which differ from those governing a dissolution of marriage proceedings.
Generally, an annulment completely erases the marriage and treats the marriage as though it never existed. A legal separation involves a binding agreement between the parties and does not always end in a divorce.
A legal separation can be compared to taking a break from the marriage relationship. However, a legal separation does share one thing in common with a dissolution of marriage in that both of these legal proceedings require the couple to enter into an agreement.
How Else is Dissolution of Marriage Different From Divorce?
Because the terms dissolution of marriage and divorce are often used interchangeably, it is important to recognize the differences between the two. Although both options permit a couple to terminate their marriage permanently, a dissolution of marriage has stricter requirements.
One major distinction between the two is that a dissolution of marriage typically involves a no-fault hearing but a divorce may be filed as a fault divorce in some states. A dissolution of marriage is typically an easier process than a divorce.
There are also other ways in which a dissolution of marriage and a divorce are different, including:
- Being married for a relatively short time, typically less than five years;
- No natural or adopted children resulted from the marriage;
- Owning little to no property together;
- A spouse giving up their right to spousal support or alimony; and
- Forming a marital dissolution agreement.
In addition, because a couple is required to agree on the terms which they include in their agreement, a dissolution of marriage is typically cheaper, quicker, and less complex than filing for a divorce. A dissolution of marriage is usually considered a more routine matter, as opposed to a divorce, which may involve a lawsuit and various legal issues.
Because of this, a dissolution of marriage is typically considered an easier process. As previously noted, a dissolution of marriages is often considered the same as a divorce.
This may occur because, in some states, the terms may, in fact, refer to the same legal process. For this reason, it is important to consult with a local attorney rather than for an individual to attempt to interpret the state laws on their own.
What Does the Filing Process Involve for a Dissolution of Marriage?
The most important step in a dissolution of marriage is to create a marital dissolution agreement. The couple is not permitted to file a petition for dissolution with a court until they have formed this agreement.
In addition, this agreement must be voluntarily entered into by both parties. The main reason for this agreement is to show that the spouses have mutually consented to live separately from each other.
In addition, the agreement is used to determine various issues, including:
- Dividing property or shared financial assets;
- Deciding on parental duties, this is only applicable in some states;
- Determining how to split the responsibility for any marital debt which the couple may have incurred;
- Stating the reasons for dissolution, which is optional; and
- Any other considerations which may require legal review.
Each spouse must agree to every provision which is included in the agreement. These negotiations or discussions are typically required to occur prior to a court getting involved.
This process may be handled through information negotiations or by using mediation. It is important for the parties to consider having legal representation when discussing these issues.
An attorney can provide insight such as the future implications of certain decisions. Each party’s attorney can also ensure their rights are being protected. Once the spouses have reached an agreement in full, they will sign it and file it with the appropriate court, which is typically a family law court.
After the dissolution of marriage agreement is finalized, the spouses can file a petition for dissolution of marriage. In certain states, at least one of the spouses is required to be a resident of the state in which the couple is filing for a specific period of time, typically 6 months.
It is important to note that, in some jurisdictions, the spouses are required to be living separately for a specified period of time prior to filing for a dissolution of marriage. The details and requirements for a dissolution of marriage may vary by state, so it is important to consult with an attorney so an individual or a couple can determine their options and the requirements for those options.
What is Included in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage?
A petition for a dissolution of marriage will typically include information such as:
- The names and contact information of all of the parties involved;
- Similar information for any children who are affected by the proceedings;
- Information regarding financial support, such as alimony agreements, or child support;
- Child custody and visitation proposals; and
- Preferences for property division, within the guidelines for that particular state.
In some cases, the party who is filing the petition for dissolution of marriage may also state their reason for requesting the divorce. This, however, is not always required, especially in states which allow for no-fault divorces.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help with the Dissolution of Marriage Process?
It is essential to have the assistance of a family lawyer for the dissolution of marriage process. Your lawyer can assist you with preparing and filing the required documents for the petition for dissolution of marriage.
It is important to have the assistance of an attorney during this process because the requirements vary by state and, in some cases, laws can be difficult to interpret on your own. Your family lawyer will be able to guide you through the important requirements and differences which are mandated by the laws of your state.
Your attorney will be able to assist you in drafting your marital dissolution agreement. As noted above, this can be done informally by just the parties or in a more formal setting, such as mediation.
The attorney will help ensure that the agreement is properly and fairly executed and that your interests are protected. They will also be there to represent you during any legal proceedings which are related to your dissolution of marriage.