The decision to end a marriage is never an easy one. This period of a person’s life is usually an emotional rollercoaster. There is also a lot to think about regarding the process, as many questions arise, such as whether to hire a lawyer.

Depending on the situation, the two parties involved have two options if they want to legally terminate their marriage: divorce and annulment. You’ve probably also heard of a dissolution of marriage, and all these terms might be tricky to differentiate between. So, what is the dissolution of marriage, and is it the same as divorce? Read on to find out.

Divorce vs. Dissolution of Marriage

There’s often confusion about whether the terms “divorce” and “dissolution of marriage” are interchangeable. The truth is, in most US states, a dissolution of marriage is a legal term for divorce, while in Ohio, they are two distinguishable terms.

In Ohio, the state that differentiates between divorce and marriage dissolution, the dissolution of marriage is deemed a no-fault form of divorce. By this state’s definition, dissolution can happen when both parties agree to settle all matters, such as custody of children and property division by themselves. Then, they file a joint petition and wait for the court’s decision.

Whether you consider divorce and dissolution the same concepts, you should know that they are from annulment. An annulment voids a marriage, making it as though it never existed. Reasons for annulment can be one or both spouses being underage or forced into the marriage.

Unlike legal separation, which enables couples to put an end to their relationship without legally ending their marriage, dissolution and divorce both terminate the marriage.

Types of Marriage Dissolution

There are two broad types of dissolution of marriage: regular and summary dissolution. Some consider regular dissolution equal to divorce, while summary dissolution is deemed a condensed version of the procedure.

Regular Dissolution

If we treat regular dissolution and divorce as synonymous, we can treat the following types as referring to both:

Contested Divorce

If two parties can’t come to an agreement about one or more aspects of divorce, they will go through a contested divorce. Their issues will be resolved by a judge, who will make those decisions for them. This kind of divorce process can last a long time and typically involves hefty legal fees.

Uncontested Divorce 

Contrary to contested divorce, if a couple can agree on all matters, they enter an uncontested divorce. This type of divorce is usually easier and quicker.

Default Divorce

If one party is served with a divorce petition and doesn’t respond within a certain period, then the other spouse can file for a default divorce. The court will automatically grant the petition as long as there is evidence that the respondent was properly served.

Fault Divorce

Some states allow for a fault divorce, which includes one party attempting to prove that the other person is to blame for the marriage failure. Some of the most common grounds for this type of divorce include:

  • Adultery 
  • Abuse
  • Abandonment 
  • Imprisonment for a prolonged period

No-Fault Divorce

This type of divorce happens when both parties agree to end their marriage without blaming the other party for the failed relationship. In this case, the parties don’t have to disclose what led to the divorce.

Summary Dissolution

Summary dissolution is an option best suited for couples with no children, large assets, or significant debts. For example, in California, the petitioners must meet the following requirements:

  • At least one party must be a resident of California for at least six months and the county where the petition is being filed for a minimum of three months.
  • The couple doesn’t have minor children, and no one is pregnant.
  • Both have to agree to cite “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the dissolution.
  • The marriage has lasted for less than five years.
  • Neither party has separate assets valued at over $45,000.
  • The couple doesn’t have $45,000 or more in marital assets.
  • Neither party intends to ask for alimony, also known as spousal support.
  • Both parties have signed a settlement agreement dividing their assets and debt and other required documents.

Although the process is fairly quick compared to other types of divorce or dissolution, you should keep in mind that there is a six-month waiting period.

Filing for Dissolution of Marriage in Ohio

Dissolving a marriage in Ohio takes 30 to 90 days, less than the time it takes to finalize an average divorce. The first step in filing for a dissolution of marriage is to obtain the necessary forms. You may find them on the Ohio Judicial System’s website. Some of the forms include the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Waiver of Summons.

Once the forms have been completed, they must be signed by both spouses and notarized. The signed and notarized dissolution of marriage forms must then be filed with the court, along with the filing fee. Those who can’t afford the fee may be eligible for a fee waiver. 

If the couple has minor children, the court will also require that a parenting plan be submitted along with the other forms. The parenting plan should address issues such as child custody, visitation, and child support. 

Once the paperwork has been filed with the local clerk, a hearing date will be set. The hearing will be simple because both spouses have agreed on everything.

The judge will ask questions to determine whether both parties agree regarding all the matters covered in the paperwork they filed. If the judge determines that the agreements are fair to both parties, they will grant the dissolution and sign the Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage.

When To Hire an Attorney

The decision of whether or not to hire a family law attorney for the dissolution of marriage is a personal one. If the couple can reach an agreement on all issues related to the dissolution, then it may not be necessary to hire an attorney. 

However, if the couple is unable to reach an agreement or if there are complex issues involved, such as child custody or property division, it may be in their best interest to seek legal counsel. An attorney can help ensure that all relevant issues are considered and that both spouses' interests are protected. 

Final Thoughts

If considered distinct from divorce, marriage dissolution is one of the least complicated options for terminating a marriage. It is typically quicker and less expensive than some types of divorce, and it does not require that the couple prove any grounds for marriage termination.

Both parties are considered single after the dissolution is finalized, but they agree to handle matters such as property division and child support by themselves by completing the necessary paperwork.