What is the dissolution of marriage?

Perhaps your marriage isn’t working anymore and you’re considering a permanent separation from your spouse. You detest the thought of going through the rigorous process of divorce, but you’ve since learned about the dissolution of marriage. Just what is this, and how does one go about it?

The difference between divorce and dissolution

In many ways, the dissolution of marriage works the same way as a divorce. They are both procedures for couples to permanently end their marriage. Legally, they both require a formal court process and likely require a family lawyer for legal advice and paperwork. Finally, due to the intricacies involved in marital separation such as child support and custody, alimony and sharing property, both divorce and dissolution of marriage can be tedious affairs.

The main difference between divorce and dissolution of marriage is that in dissolution, the reason a couple splits apart doesn’t really matter. Unlike divorce, where negative behavior or disagreement must be proven, neither party needs to justify misconduct of the other in order to qualify for the process of dissolution. 

This no-fault strategy saves time and money spent in the process of bringing an end to the marriage. Neither party needs to use faults to justify the separation and can use a more general term like “irreconcilable differences” to begin. The two partners must live apart for some time before the marriage is dissolved in this case, but overall, the process is usually shorter if both parties come to an agreement early on.

Filing for a divorce, on the other hand, requires a party to give grounds for misconduct on the part of the other spouse. Even though definitions of misconduct vary from one state to another, there are common ones such as violence, adultery, and abandonment. Proving these can be strenuous for the couple, as well as any children present in the marriage. And, at times, being able to prove the other person guilty could stretch the process since one has to give tangible evidence to support the allegations. This is why many divorce cases seem to go on for a long time.

Because it takes longer, the process of divorce is also more expensive in the long run, especially in terms of compensation for the lawyer and the lawsuit in general. However, most states have added the no-fault option to the process of divorce in recent times, making it possible to shorten the proceedings.

Reasons you might consider a dissolution of marriage

There are several valid reasons that can lead to the dissolution of marriage, and the partner filing for it generally terms these as irreconcilable differences. These can include:

  • Mental abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Excessive drinking
  • Drug abuse

When seeking dissolution of marriage, one has to prove that irreconcilable differences are the cause of separation, and any efforts of reconciliation have not yielded any results whatsoever. Further attempts for the two to remain together will only lead to further discord and are not beneficial to the parties involved.

In order to apply for a dissolution of marriage, a couple must live separately for two years. This duration is meant to help them gauge whether the marriage can be mended or not. Sometimes, however, the marriage can be dissolved after only six months of living apart. The spouses can also agree to waive the requirement of going through separation by written consent to court. This works to save them both the headache of a lengthy court process, as well as the heartache of prolonging dissolution of their union.

The reasons for couples to seek marriage dissolution are as varied as the individuals themselves; therefore, the process may require the assistance of a lawyer. A lawyer can help the partner filing for dissolution by protecting their rights and offering the right procedure for the individual’s case.

Legal steps for dissolution of marriage

You don’t necessarily require a lawyer to apply for marriage dissolution to the family court on your behalf. You can do it yourself, and there are downloadable forms for you to fill out on your state’s family court website.

However, in the best interests of both parties, it is advisable to engage a lawyer to represent you in court. In addition to giving legal advice on how best to reach an agreement, a lawyer can also help you avoid complications that may arise when separating your assets and property. According to Florida law, for instance, you qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage if you agree on a way to divide property between you two and have no children from the marriage. When that is not applicable, you then apply for regular dissolution of marriage. In either case, having a lawyer by your side to make sure you understand all the paperwork and meet your deadlines is invaluable.

Dissolution of marriage is done in the state where both partners lived together or in the present state they live in. The petition presented to the circuit court indicates fact that the marriage is broken, then the couple will supply further details as required by the court.

One partner will initially file for the dissolution. The other partner then has 20 days to respond to the petition, with an indication of sections of it she/he agrees with or disputes. Any further issues can be raised with the court.

A financial affidavit then has to be filed within 45 days of the petition served. Both partners are required to reveal further financial information of personal finances, then respond to questions from the other under oath.

Mediation then takes place so the two can reach agreement on issues not previously settled. The two then need to come up with a parenting plan for the children, which can be reached between them both and then presented to the judge for approval. If an agreement isn’t possible, the court can enter its own parenting plan.

The parenting plan ensures both parties have regular contact with the children, and also share responsibilities and rights. It generally includes a time-sharing schedule, distribution of duties toward raising the children, ways for the two to communicate with the children, and an arrangement for filling out health and school forms.

A contested final hearing, also known as the trial, is the final step in a dissolution of marriage. This occurs only if the two partners do not agree on some of the issues regarding marriage dissolution. In a final hearing, a judge will reach the final agreement on any contentious issues between the couple. This might involve issues such as child support or alimony, where the couple is unable to reach an agreement on the matter.

What types of relationships are viable for dissolution?

Dissolution of marriage applies to either a civil union or religious marriage. In a case where civil marriage exists between a couple, it is recognized by the state. A religious marriage is sanctioned by a religious body and also recognized by the state. Both these types of marriage can be dissolved through the court, should the court see a reason for the partners to separate.

Conclusion

Many people get into marriage with a hope that the union will last, but that’s not always the case. Whether you’re looking at a divorce or marriage dissolution, you can speed up the process by reaching an agreement among yourselves and considering all your options.

If finding a suitable solution with your spouse is out of the question, or if you simply want legal expertise to help the separation procedures go as smoothly as possible, relying on a lawyer can help. Having a lawyer mediate the arrangement can save conflict, stress, and a host of other negative emotions for both a couple and their children. It’ll also minimize the time it takes for your dissolution to come to an end, making the transition easier for everyone involved.