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What Is a Dissolution of Marriage?

dissolution of marriage

Dissolution refers to a formal legal end to marriage as determined by a court of law. It ends the relationship between the spouses, the same as a divorce. There is a difference between dissolution and annulment, as the former does not make it as if the marriage did not occur. Rather it is a formal close to the marriage relationship. Both dissolution and divorce can be referred to as ways to end a marriage, though they differ due to the terminology and related processes. Dissolution may be considered an "uncontested divorce", while the latter is used for contested divorces. Depending on the state, dissolution allows partners to skip many typical processes in a regular divorce. Though the cost and time taken during dissolutions are the same as is the case for uncontested divorces in most states.

Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage

dissolution of marriage

The reasons for dissolution are similar to those of divorce in most states. No-fault divorce is still an option, so one does not have to cite the typical grounds found within contested dissolutions. It also works well if there is a mutual agreement.


Infidelity is one of the main causes of marriage dissolution and may be specified within prenuptial agreements. It is when a married man or woman is proven to have had sexual relations with a person other than their spouse. In the eyes of the law, it is not considered adultery if there has been sexual intercourse, but it is an individual of the same sex.

Unreasonable Behavior

Unreasonable behavior covers several scenarios, including financial recklessness, domestic violence, drug abuse, or cruel treatment of one partner toward the other. This is determined on a case-by-case basis though it should be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the couple's home situation is not sustainable due to the actions of one partner. That is especially so if there are children present from the marriage.


Desertion occurs when a spouse has absconded from their duties and left the household for at least two years. Desertion is only considered valid, though, in the event the spouse has left without the consent of their partner. It can also be determined if the individual left without a valid reason in the eyes of the court. It may be similar to separation without consent, though in that case, the duration would have to be five years.

No-Fault Grounds

The petition of dissolution of marriage on a no-fault basis maintains that at least one party determines the marriage is not salvageable due to irreconcilable differences. The parties may decide then to file for a dissolution via mutual consent. It would be considered the same as an uncontested divorce, saving significant time and cost.

The Process of Getting a Marriage Dissolved

dissolution of marriage

It is typically the same though there may be differences depending on the state. The first step is filing the dissolution petition and other paperwork with the courts, such as settlement agreements if one has one. Spouses should also be served; they can answer or state what they agree with within the papers.

The petitioner will also file a more detailed complaint during the process, explaining what is being inquired for and the reason. It is possible to skip the step on serving, though, in some situations, especially if duress is involved. An exchange of required financial information with one's spouse and the court would be next. This would qualify as the discovery process so that resources and property are divided appropriately according to state laws.

The spouses must also take any required parenting classes if children are involved. Final paperwork is then submitted with the court, like a proposed dissolution judgment, and there is a mandated final hearing resulting in the decree signed by the judge. If the divorce is contested, there may be additional steps in the process, such as depositions, hearings, pretrial motions, negotiations, and a trial if necessary. It is why uncontested dissolutions tend to cost less and take less time to complete.

The marriage is officially dissolved when the judge signs the final divorce decree. The state then issues a dissolution certificate as a legal document of proof that the marriage relationship is ended. It is similar to the manner a marriage certificate shows that a couple is married.

Is Legal Counsel Necessary?

Regardless of whether it is a divorce or marriage dissolution, it is recommended that the partners speak with an attorney concerning the case. The goal is for each party to understand their rights and the processes required in such an undertaking within the state. In a good case scenario, both spouses will be in agreement, so it would be simple to go forward with the divorce using an online platform or by themselves. Hiring a lawyer before going forward may also improve one's chances of negotiating with a former partner in a contested divorce to settle. Should a settlement not be possible, then the attorney can represent one's rights during a divorce.

Legal Separation as an Alternative to Dissolution

Some couples can prefer to seek separation rather than get a divorce. Legal separation is not the same as dissolution, considering it does not legally terminate the relationship. The reason for this is it allows some leeway for insurance or taxation benefits which would be available to a married couple. In a legal separation, the couple remains married, but they live apart.

It is also possible to divide resources and sort child custody adequately so that both partners can live independently but retain some of the privileges that come with matrimony. Legal separation also allows the two spouses to reconcile without significant technical difficulty.

They may also choose to remain legally separated as opposed to divorce for religious reasons. Marriage dissolution can be daunting, especially if the couple is not fully prepared to divorce. However, in cases where there are no alternatives, it may be a clean way to end the relationship. That may be, especially if there are no contentions between the spouses.