What Is The Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage?

Couple being offered a divorce agreement
December 21, 2021

If you and your spouse have reached a point where you both feel that it’s best to move on, Ohio law offers several ways to end your marriage. Two of the most common options are divorce and dissolution. And while they both result in termination of a marriage, there are definite legal differences between divorce and dissolution. We’ll get into what you generally need to know, but for more detailed, case-specific advice, consulting with a qualified Cleveland divorce lawyer is your best bet.

Key Differences Between Divorce and Dissolution

Both divorce and dissolution end a marriage, but while divorce begins as a civil lawsuit and generally requires that one party prove grounds for their request, dissolution is a mutual agreement between spouses. 

To support a claim that a spouse is at fault, legal grounds for divorce need to fall within accepted parameters, such as adultery, neglect, and abuse, among other things. Beyond claims to a spouse’s behavior, the accusing spouse will also need to produce a witness. For couples that have been living apart for at least a year and that agree on incompatibility, fault isn’t necessary to seek a divorce.

Some important things to know about divorce proceedings:

  • Following the complaint, legal documents are served to the at-fault party; they have 28 days after service of the complaint and summons to respond or file a counterclaim. 
  • Divorce can be granted no sooner than six weeks after notification.
  • Temporary court orders may be necessary to maintain the family’s financial and childcare status quo, ensure continued support, and prevent harassment while the case is pending.
  • Professionals may be brought in via subpoenas or otherwise to attest to property and asset values.
  • Ohio divorce cases are either settled between parties or decided by the trial judge or magistrate, who will ultimately issue a Decree of Divorce, detailing all relevant information.
  • If the case is contested and one or both parties are unhappy with the court’s ultimate decision an appeal can be filed and a panel of judges will review the matter.

In the end, divorce can lead to much contention, expense, and even trauma for all parties involved. 

Dissolution is another option, and unlike divorce it doesn’t require any accusation of fault. A dissolution case isn’t filed with the court until a comprehensive agreement has been reached between parties. This agreement would cover every aspect of the situation, from child custody and support to property division, debt repayment, and how to handle attorney fees. Because the court is not involved at this stage, both parties will need to freely share information and can hire professionals to provide expert opinions on financial matters. 

Once the separation agreement is decided on and filed with the court, a hearing will be scheduled within 30 to 90 days. The court will likely inquire about the arrangements for child care–whether sole custody or shared parenting–asset division, and liabilities. After both parties testify to the court that they are satisfied with the arrangement, have been transparent, and voluntarily request dissolution, the court can then approve the agreement and the marriage will end. 

How to Know Whether Divorce or Dissolution is Best

Choosing between divorce and dissolution comes down to the fundamental relationship between spouses. 

If both parties are in agreement that things aren’t working out and they have few issues to work through, then dissolution might be the natural choice. Keep in mind that for dissolution to be successful both parties must ultimately be in agreement on every aspect of the split. If a couple meets that basic requirement, then they’ll generally save time, effort, and expense by going the route of dissolution.

On the other hand, if one or both parties cannot come to an agreement on childcare, custody, finances, or any other matter, then those conflicts will likely spell divorce. A seasoned Ohio divorce attorney can help couples to evaluate their situation and make the best decision, along with advising on any considerations that are particular to the state.

Legal Considerations for Divorce and Dissolution––Pros and Cons

Dissolution will typically offer a faster resolution with less expense incurred, but divorce can afford the accusing party some rights and protections that could be very valuable in certain circumstances. For instance, filing for divorce gets the court involved right away and can prevent harassment. The court can also use experts and subpoenas to uncover financial information if the at-fault party is unwilling to share or deliberately hiding information.

Whether divorce or dissolution is best depends almost entirely on whether spouses can come to an agreement on the most important issues at hand. If there is any doubt or disagreement on terms then divorce might be the best way forward. But it won’t come without costs––financial and otherwise. Taking time to speak with a divorce attorney can help you to come to the best decision for your family and ensure that whatever you decide, your rights are protected.

Call on Your Local Cleveland, Ohio Divorce Attorney

Whatever situation finds you and your spouse looking to end your marriage, there is a lot to consider, whether you’re open to agreement or not. If children are involved then it’s especially important that matters are handled smoothly and sensitively. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC we know the value of communication and collaboration and we value families’ rights. We can see your divorce through, no matter the path you choose. Get in touch today to get started and find resolution – we’re ready to help.