There are few things more challenging than the end of the marriage. However, it came about, deciding to formally end your relationship is often incredibly emotional. Going through the legal process can add another layer of stress.
In Ohio, there are two options for ending a marriage: divorce or dissolution. For many couples, dissolution is a good option, as it is often less adversarial, expensive, and time-consuming. To get a dissolution, you will need to come to a settlement agreement in advance and attend a final hearing in court.
If you are currently married and considering divorce, a dissolution may be a good choice if you and your spouse can work together to decide issues such as property division and custody. An experienced Cleveland dissolution attorney can help you with the process, starting with a free consultation where you can explore your options.
What Is Dissolution?
In Ohio, a dissolution has the same legal effect as a divorce. It is a way for each spouse to minimize their costs while avoiding conflict and confrontation. Because the parties must come to an agreement regarding the issues in their divorce, it is only viable for spouses who are able to communicate and make joint decisions.
To file for dissolution, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state of Ohio for at least six months prior to filing. The dissolution petition must be filed in the court in the county where at least one spouse has lived for the past 90 days. For example, if both parties live in Cleveland, the dissolution action would be filed in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court.
If you and your spouse agree to file for a dissolution, the first step in the process is to draft and sign a separation agreement. This agreement should address:
- Division of property and debts;
- Spousal support (if necessary);
- Custody and visitation (where applicable); and
- Any other issue related to marriage.
Both spouses must agree to all of the terms of the separation agreement, and sign it before filing a petition for dissolution. The agreement must be attached to the petition. You have the option of serving this petition on your spouse, or you can each sign a waiver of service so that this step is not necessary.
When filing a dissolution petition, you are requesting that the court review and approve this separation agreement. If you filed for divorce initially, you may also convert the divorce into a dissolution by filing a motion before the divorce judgment is final. Once the petition has been filed, the court will set a hearing date, which must be no earlier than 30 days and no later than 90 days after the petition was filed.
At the hearing, both spouses must be present to give testimony. The court will ask each spouse if they have entered into the agreement voluntarily, if they are happy with the terms of the agreement, and if they believe that the agreement is fair. Finally, the judge will ask each spouse if they still want to end their marriage through dissolution.
If the judge approves the petition and agreement, the court will enter a judgment of dissolution. This judgment will incorporate the terms of the separation agreement, which makes it into a court order. The dissolution order will serve to terminate the marriage and will have the same legal effect as a divorce.
The Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution in Ohio
Under Ohio law, divorce and dissolution both lead to the same outcome: the legal termination of a marriage. Dissolution is However, there are significant differences between the two processes.
As an initial matter, dissolution involves a joint decision to end a marriage, whereas a divorce proceeding is initiated by one party. For this reason, dissolution is a non-adversarial proceeding where the parties work together to achieve a common goal. With a divorce, the proceedings are often contested.
This brings up a second distinction between divorce and dissolution: who decides the issues related to the marriage. In a dissolution, the parties work together to figure out things like child custody and support, property division, and spousal support/alimony. In a divorce, the parties are asking the court to decide these matters for them, although many divorce cases are settled prior to trial.
A divorce may also involve a question of fault. While individuals can file for a no-fault divorce in Ohio on the basis of incompatibility, a spouse may seek a divorce because their spouse was unfaithful, habitually drunk, or for a variety of other reasons. Fault is not a consideration in a dissolution.
Divorce is typically more time-consuming than a dissolution. Once the parties agree to the terms of a separation agreement, a court hearing must be scheduled within 1 to 3 months of filing a dissolution petition. In contrast, a divorce may take a year or even several years to resolve, depending on whether the case goes to trial.
For this reason, a divorce is often more expensive than a dissolution. In many cases, each spouse has their own attorney. Even if the divorce case is eventually settled, the parties may spend a significant amount of money on discovery (the process of exchanging information about a case), motions, and negotiations between the two lawyers.
With dissolution, the parties are working together to achieve the same goal. Costs are often lower because the spouses share information (eliminating the need for discovery) and don’t need to file motions with the court. The spouses may even be able to use the same attorney to help them draft a dissolution agreement (although separate lawyers may be advisable to ensure that each party’s interests are protected).
While there are many advantages to dissolution as compared to a divorce, it isn’t the right choice for everyone. If only one spouse wants a divorce or if you are unable to work together to decide the issues in your marriage, then a dissolution won’t work for you. A Cleveland dissolution attorney can help you decide what legal process is right for you, and advocate for you throughout the process.
Considering Divorce? Reach Out for Help.
The end of a marriage is almost always difficult for everyone involved. Even if both spouses agree that it’s the right choice, it can still be a difficult decision to make. A dissolution can make the process easier if you are able to work with your spouse to come to an agreement about your marriage.
At Laubacher & Co., we represent individuals throughout the Cleveland area in a range of family law matters. Our practice is dedicated to family law, with the goal of helping our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their particular situations. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us at (855)-701-1004 or email us today.