Dissolution vs. Divorce: What’s the Best Option for You?

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Understanding your options for divorce is the first step to feeling more confident moving forward. Knowing what to expect makes it easier to choose the process that will work best in your unique situation. 

This Dissolution vs. Divorce guide will explain the most common ways to end a marriage. We’ll take a closer look at their differences and pros and cons of each. We’ll also explore how mediation can help reduce the stress, cost, and time spent on the divorce process.

Quick Summary

  • In all states except Ohio and Alaska, there is no distinction between a divorce and dissolution. The terms are used interchangeably. 
  • In Ohio and Alaska, a dissolution of marriage is a collaborative, no-fault (uncontested) divorce. 
  • Through mediation, spouses can complete either process in a private, supportive setting.

What is a divorce?

A divorce is a legal process that ends a marriage. A divorce can either be contested or uncontested.

Contested divorce

In a contested divorce, spouses disagree on the divorce terms related to custody, parenting time, or how to divide marital property.

When spouses aren’t able to resolve the contested issues, the case can be resolved in court or through mediation. Resolving divorce in court is known as litigation. In litigation, each spouse’s attorney argues their case in front of a judge.

Resolving contested matters in litigation can be slow and expensive.

Spouses can decide their own divorce terms without paying high attorney fees or going to court, even when there is a high level of conflict, by choosing divorce mediation.

If you and your spouse are struggling to find a way to compromise, mediation can help.

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Uncontested divorce

In an uncontested divorce, neither spouse claims any wrongdoing or assigns blame. Spouses agree on all of the details related to their divorce. Since they agree on everything, there’s no need to involve a judge or go to court. This is normally a much simpler, faster process than a contested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, mediators help spouses understand their options and reach creative agreements that both spouses find acceptable.

If you want to learn more about the differences between uncontested and contested divorce, check out Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: How to Choose the Right Path.

What is a dissolution of marriage?

A dissolution of marriage is a legal process where spouses end their marriage in a collaborative way. Both spouses agree that the marriage is beyond reconciliation.

In almost every state in the US, a dissolution of marriage is the same as a divorce.

But, that’s not the case in all states.

In Ohio and Alaska, a dissolution of marriage refers to an uncontested, collaborative divorce. In these states, “divorce” is only used to describe a contested, fault-based divorce.

Mediation can help in any case — even when a divorce is contested or conflict is high.

Pro tip: Be sure to check out the uncontested divorce laws in your state to learn about waiting periods and other requirements in your state.
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Quick recap:

  • In Ohio and Alaska, a dissolution of marriage refers to a no-fault, uncontested divorce. In these states, spouses can only file for divorce on fault-based grounds.
  • In every other state, a dissolution of marriage is the same as a divorce.

Divorce vs. dissolution: Which path to take?

In a state that does distinguish between dissolution and divorce, a dissolution (what would be called an uncontested divorce in most other states) is always preferable. Since the spouses are in agreement about the terms, a dissolution is usually the least disruptive option.

Aurit Center Certified Mediators help spouses complete their divorce process through guided, balanced discussion. They offer free complimentary consultations to answer all of your questions. Your mediator will make sure you both understand the legal requirements in your state.

Dissolution pros

A dissolution can be quick, amicable, and collaborative.

  • It’s cost-effective: There’s less court involvement, so spouses pay less in legal fees.
  • It saves time: Legal proceedings can be slow, so spouses save time by avoiding the need for them.
  • It gives mutual control: The spouses, rather than a judge, decide all of the terms.

Dissolution cons

In states that distinguish dissolution from divorce, dissolutions sometimes aren’t suitable for high conflict separations because:

  • Mutual agreement is required: When a dissolution requires that spouses agree, mutual agreement is a “must” in the end. This is especially challenging when one party is disengaged or uncooperative.
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Divorce pros

The benefits of divorce mediaiton include:

  • Clear terms: The terms are clear and comprehensive.
  • Spousal support: A divorce (and dissolution) provides the legal framework for structured alimony or child support.
  • Property division: Division of marital property that both spouses find acceptable, so long as spouses use divorce mediation.

Divorce cons

The divorce litigation process can include:

  • Higher costs: High attorney fees and court costs can add up quickly.
  • Cumbersome and slow: The process can drag on, especially in a contested divorce. Divorce mediation is more efficient.
  • Higher stress level: The adversarial nature of divorce can become a long, drawn-out court battle. This can exacerbate emotional stress unless spouses choose divorce mediation.
  • Limited control of the process. Courts try to ensure a fair division of assets (from the judge’s perspective, at least). But, spouses have little control over the end result. This can be challenging. In mediation, we believe spouses know their family’s needs best.

How to file for divorce or dissolution of marriage

The steps for beginning the divorce or dissolution process are generally the same.

One spouse — known as the petitioner or plaintiff — initiates the process by filing a petition for divorce or a petition for dissolution of marriage.

Then the plaintiff serves their spouse with the petition to give them a chance to respond.

After a series of legal steps, court hearings, and paperwork, a judge approves the petition to make it official. The final divorce decree or certificate of dissolution terminates the marriage and outlines the settlement terms.

How mediation can help

Divorce mediation is a collaborative process where spouses work with a trained, professional mediator. The mediator keeps the conversation on track and helps spouses reach agreements privately, without going to court.

No matter what level of conflict that exists, mediation can help. With an Aurit Center Certified Mediator, spouses can resolve their disputes and find the best solutions for their families.

In mediation, spouses are able to complete the same legal documents and forms required by state law. But, they don’t have to pay an attorney or deal with the trauma and stress of a courtroom.

The key difference between mediation and litigation is the approach.

In litigation, a divorce trial tends to escalate arguments over child custody, parenting time, the division of marital assets, and payment of debts. In the litigation process, attorneys focus on getting the most for their client, even if it involves making contentious personal attacks against the other spouse.

However, mediation can help you to sidestep conflict in a non-judgmental, confidential setting. You can discuss all of the necessary topics and work toward a mutually beneficial separation agreement.

Without the expensive attorney fees and lengthy court proceedings that come with litigation, mediation is more affordable and takes much less time than the traditional litigation process.

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Ending on the best possible terms

Ultimately, in mediation, you’ll achieve a more harmonious outcome without spending all your savings.

Our experienced Aurit Center Certified Mediators can answer any questions you have about the process. We’ve helped thousands of people complete their entire process without setting foot in a courtroom.

A healthy divorce is possible.

Schedule a free 1-hour consultation today to learn how we can help you navigate the process with as little stress as possible.

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