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What is a dissolution of marriage? Is it just another term for divorce?
In most states, "dissolution of marriage" is just another way of
saying “divorce,” and it refers to the process by which a couple can end their
In a few states, however, a dissolution of marriage is not the same as a divorce, because it does not permanently terminate marital status or because it can only be used for certain cases, such as where a couple agrees to the dissolution and agrees on how everything will be resolved (for example, alimony and division of property). For puposes of this article, we'll focus on the more common use of the term.
Couples can dissolve their marriages by choosing a "no-fault" or "fault" divorce. A "no-fault" divorce is one where spouses seek to
end their marriage without assessing any blame or fault. In other words, the
spouse that requests the divorce (the "filing" spouse) doesn't need to accuse the other spouse of bad behavior, which led to the separation.
Instead, the filing spouse can list a "no-fault" reason for the
divorce, such as "irreconcilable differences," which is just a fancy
way of saying the couple can't get along anymore, and there is no real chance
that they will get back together. A no-fault divorce is easier and quicker to
obtain than a "fault" divorce, but spouses may be required to live
apart for a certain amount of time. The specific requirements for a no-fault
divorce will depend on the laws of the state where the divorce action is filed.
In a "fault" divorce, the filing spouse's request
to end the marriage is based on a claim that the other spouse engaged in a specific type of misconduct,
which led to the breakup. Grounds for a fault divorce vary from state to
state, but some of the most common are adultery, physical or emotional abuse,
abandonment, and drug or alcohol addiction.
Fault divorces are more contentious and stressful for all
involved (including any children of the marriage), and they generally cost more
in attorney’s fees because of all the time spent trying to prove allegations of
bad behavior. Historically, this was a very common way to dissolve a marriage, but today,
most states have either abandoned fault grounds or added no-fault options
For more information on this topic, see No-Fault Versus Fault Divorce, by Lina Guillen.
A dissolution of marriage can be challenging on many levels, because it
involves potentially complex and emotionally-charged issues,
such as child custody and support, division of property and debts, and alimony
(also known as "spousal support" or "maintenance"). As a result, spouses
considering dissolution of marriage should seek legal advice; an experienced
family law attorney can explain each of these legal issues and how they may
play out in your particular case. In addition, an attorney can prepare all
necessary divorce paperwork and ensure that your rights are fully protected,
whether you end up settling all issues with your spouse (outside of court) or
going through a full-blown divorce trial.
by: Lina Guillen, Attorney
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