Ohio couples who wish to end their marriage have the choice between filing for a divorce or for a dissolution. While both options will ultimately terminate the marriage, the legal processes differ greatly.
Divorces and dissolutions each have their own advantages and disadvantages. A dissolution may be desirable for spouses who are in agreement or who have few issues to work out. A divorce may be necessary if there is conflict between the two spouses on how to divide their assets and liabilities or how to handle their children. Whether it is better to file for a divorce or for a dissolution depends on the circumstances of each case.
A dissolution requires both parties agreement on all details of terminating their marriage, as well as how to allocate rights and responsibilities if the parties have children. A dissolution is often the best way to proceed when terminating a marriage because it is generally faster in ending the marriage than a divorce and it is less expensive. It also allows the parties to come to their own terms on how their assets and liabilities will be divided and how they will raise the children after they are divorced.
If filing for a dissolution, in addition to other legally required paperwork, spouses must first reduce their agreement to writing in a document called a “Separation Agreement.” If there are children and one spouse keeps sole custody of the children, the terms regarding children will also be incorporated into the Separation Agreement. If the parties agree on joint custody of the children (referred to as “Shared Parenting” in Ohio), there will be an additional separate document known as a “Shared Parenting Plan” that the parties will also reduce to writing and sign.
Once all of the agreements are finalized and signed, the request for a dissolution will be filed with the court. The court will then schedule a final dissolution hearing, which will occur thirty days or more after the request has been filed with the court. This minimum thirty day waiting period is a requirement for a dissolution in Ohio.
Until the final dissolution hearing, the signed separation agreement acts as a contract between the parties but is not yet a court order. At the final hearing, the judge will sign a separate document called a “Decree,” which will then make the separation agreement an order of the court. If problems arise between the parties after the termination of the marriage where one spouse does not follow the terms of the agreement, the court will be able to enforce the non-compliant party to follow the terms of the previous agreement.
Unfortunately, a dissolution is not always an option for parties. Even if spouses agree that they both want to end the marriage, oftentimes they are unable to agree on the terms. In these cases, filing for a divorce will most likely be necessary. A divorce is also sometimes necessary where one party wants to terminate the marriage while the other party does not wish to do so. A divorce allows the party who wants to terminate the marriage the avenue to do so, whether or not the other person agrees.
Unlike a dissolution where the parties agree, a divorce is a process whereby the court—not the parties—determines the terms of ending the marriage and allocating parental responsibilities. While parties can always settle their case amicably even after a divorce is filed (this is known as an “Uncontested Divorce”), a contested divorce will ultimately proceed to a trial where both sides present evidence and the judge makes any final decisions.
One advantage to filing for divorce is that it can provide certain protections and rights to a spouse that a dissolution cannot. For example, in a divorce, the court may step in to prevent one spouse from harassing the other. Moreover, in cases where one spouse believes the other spouse is hiding assets, experts and subpoenas may be used to uncover hidden assets.
A divorce oftentimes takes a much longer time than a dissolution in terminating a marriage, which also makes a divorce more expensive than a dissolution. Because of the amount of time a divorce can take, the court has the jurisdiction to be able to issue temporary orders during the pendency of the case. These temporary orders will control how finances will be taken care of during the divorce, including payments of debts, spousal support and child support. The temporary orders will also determine the custody and parenting time of the children. However, the final division of assets and liabilities and the final orders regarding children will not be determined by the court until the final divorce hearing.
After the divorce trial, the judge will issue a “Decree of Divorce,” which will include all the relevant terms necessary in terminating the parties’ marriage. The court will also make determinations regarding the children, if applicable. Like a decree of dissolution, a divorce decree also allows the court to enforce the provisions of the divorce decree if one party is non-compliant once the decree has been issued.
Whether it is best to file for a dissolution or for a divorce is an important decision. A person wishing to terminate his or her marriage should consult with an attorney in order to determine which option is best for him or her and to ensure that his or her rights are adequately protected.