What Is Dissolution of Marriage?

In almost all states, a “dissolution of marriage” is the same as a divorce.

By , Attorney

If you're getting started in the divorce process, you might have come across the term "dissolution of marriage" and wondered what the difference between a dissolution and a divorce was. Here's what you need to know about the term "dissolution of marriage" and how it compares to divorce.

What Is a "Dissolution of Marriage"?

Many states' laws refer to divorces as something other than "divorce." For example, a divorce in Georgia is known as a "total divorce." (Ga. Code § 19-5-3 (2021).) The most common alternative name for a divorce is a "dissolution." In every state except Ohio, a "dissolution of marriage" is the same as a divorce.

In Ohio, courts can grant a "divorce" for one of 11 different reasons, including adultery, habitual drunkenness, and imprisonment. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.01 (2021).) On the other hand, Ohio courts can grant a "dissolution of marriage" when the spouses jointly file their petition, agree on all the issues—such as property division and spousal support—in their divorce, and have a written separation agreement. After a waiting period, the court will grant the dissolution and incorporate the separation agreement as a court order. In other words, an Ohio dissolution of marriage is similar to an "uncontested" divorce in most other states. An Ohio dissolution ends the marriage just like a divorce.

How to File for Dissolution

Every state has its own rules and procedures for obtaining a divorce or dissolution—you'll need to research the basics of divorce in your state. Most states offer at least a few types of dissolution that couples can choose from. The type of dissolution you choose will depend on what's offered by your state and the facts of your own situation.

For example, if you and your spouse agree on all the issues in your dissolution, you might be able to file an uncontested dissolution. In an uncontested dissolution, a judge doesn't need to resolve any disputes—instead, you propose the terms of your divorce in either your petition or a divorce settlement agreement. It's then up to the judge to simply review and approve the terms as long as they are legal and fair. Because there's nothing to fight about in court, uncontested dissolutions are usually faster and cheaper than litigated divorces. Rather than hire attorneys, many couples choose to DIY or use an online divorce service to help them file an uncontested divorce. And, in some states, if you meet the often strict requirements, you might be able to speed up the process even further by getting a "summary dissolution," discussed below.

What Is a "Summary Dissolution"?

Some states offer spouses the option of ending their marriage through a "summary dissolution"—a form of divorce that usually requires less paperwork and court hearings than a traditional divorce. Summary dissolutions are also known as "simplified divorces," "summary divorces," "agreed divorces," or "short-form summary dissolutions."

Couples seeking a summary dissolution will need to meet their state's specific filing requirements. Although state summary dissolution statutes vary, many require that:

  • at least one spouse has been a resident for 3-6 months
  • the marriage was of a short duration (for example, less than 10 years)
  • the spouses don't have any minor children or children 18 or older still attending school
  • neither spouse is pregnant
  • neither spouse owns real property
  • the marital property is limited (for example, does not exceed $30,000)
  • the marital debts are minimal (for example, less than $15,000)
  • both spouses waive rights to spousal support, and
  • the spouses agree on how to divide marital property and debts.

If your state doesn't offer summary dissolution procedures, but your marriage meets the example requirements listed above, consider pursuing an uncontested dissolution instead.

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