People often confuse divorce and dissolution. Both are closely related and pertain to ending marriage, but they operate in very different ways. If you and your spouse are headed for separation, it’s important to know the differences between divorce and summary dissolution. Both cover child custody, child support, alimony, and marital property, but the process is different for each.
“Fault” in Divorces
Many states recognize various possible legal grounds for divorce. An “at-fault” divorce means that one spouse caused injury or damage to the other and destroyed the other spouse’s desire to remain married. Some of the commonly cited legal grounds for divorce include:
- Adultery, or having sexual/intimate relations with another person outside the marriage without the spouse’s approval or consent.
- Cruelty, or emotional/verbal abuse of one’s spouse.
- Physical abuse or violent outbursts.
- Gross neglect of duty.
- Spousal imprisonment. If one spouse forces the other to remain at home always, removes his or her ability to contact family, friends, and outside help, it is imprisonment.
- Bigamy, or marriage to multiple spouses. Technically, a marriage never actually existed if one spouse was still married to someone else when he or she married the current spouse.
- Fraudulent marriage contract. If one spouse lied about aspects of his or her life in a prenuptial agreement, this is legal grounds for divorce.
If one or both spouses have legal grounds for divorce, such as those listed above, they may file for divorce by issuing a complaint to the common pleas court’s domestic relations division or the common pleas court’s general division.
Divorces can be emotionally heated, stressful, time-consuming, and often bitter. In resentful divorces, each spouse may look for any possible way to make life difficult for the other. This could be by delaying divorce proceedings to rack up attorney fees or generally being combative or uncooperative during procedural meetings. Ultimately, divorcing couples want to get the most from the other while giving up as little as possible.
When to Pursue Dissolution
Dissolution, on the other hand, can offer a quick and relatively painless way to end a marriage in more amicable scenarios. Some couples decide that divorce is what is best for everyone involved without any bitterness, resentment, or hostility. Dissolution is a “no fault” divorce filed by both spouses and requires complete agreement on every issue pertaining to the separation.
Dissolution is straightforward if both spouses agree to divorce and can settle every detail, including child support, alimony, property division, visitation and custody. The state of California offers summary dissolution, which is an even easier way to end a marriage. To qualify for summary dissolution, the following criteria must be met:
- The spouses must have been married for at least five years.
- The wife must not currently be pregnant. Children who were born or adopted before the marriage began may also disqualify the couple from summary dissolution.
- The spouses must not own any real estate property.
- The spouses must not have acquired more than $25,000 in property value since the beginning of the marriage.
If a judge grants a summary dissolution, neither spouse may receive any spousal support or alimony. The divorcing spouses also must agree to split the costs of all court filing fees. Summary Dissolution is a great option for ending registered domestic partnerships, as well.
If you’re unsure about whether divorce or dissolution is right for your situation, speak with an attorney. Over time, people can grow apart and lose their sense of intimacy with each other without building resentment. If you and your spouse have not wronged one another but no longer wish to be married, speak to a divorce attorney about whether dissolution is a viable option.