Divorces and Dissolutions

Divorces and dissolutions are two methods of ending divorces in Ohio.  Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each has its place. 

In practice, the important distinction between a divorce and dissolution is with timing.  For a dissolution, the parties first come to a complete agreement, draft this into a separation agreement, a then file a petition.  The court will schedule a hearing between 30 and 90 days after the filing, primarily to confirm under oath that the parties agree to the terms of the separation agreement.  If granted, the marriage will be terminated, just like a divorce.

In contrast, a complaint for a divorce is filed before the parties reach a full agreement.  A benefit with a divorce is that temporary orders can be put in place when the complaint is filed and while the parties work out agreements on as many issues as possible.  These temporary orders can address spousal support, who lives in the family home, custody of the children, and provide protection from either party taking out new debt or spending down assets while the divorce is pending.  The parties are still encouraged to work out an agreement, or at least come to an agreement on as many issues as possible.  If they reach a full agreement, the divorce can be converted to a dissolution or the parties can submit a proposed judgement entry and settlement to the court.

The disadvantage of a divorce comes more from the parties being unable to reach agreements than from the process itself.  For each issue the parties do not agree, additional time, steps, and expenses are required to either get to an agreement or to present the issue to the court to decide.  Divorces can also be more conflict oriented.

A primary disadvantage of a dissolution is the lack of temporary orders while the parties are negotiating an agreement.  This can contribute to conflict as the parties have no agreements to fall back on (e.g., visitation schedules for the children, who can live in the home, who pays the mortgage, etc...) while they are negotiating and this can leave parties vulnerable to the other taking advantage of the situation financially (e.g., withdrawing the savings account).

From my perspective, I often recommend a divorce to obtain the benefit of temporary orders, although a dissolution that is done correctly and promptly would be the ideal situation.  In the real world, it is very difficult during that initial break-up of the marriage for the parties to come to an agreement regarding all of the necessary terms, especially while they are still fragile and open to being hurt emotionally.  Too many times I have seen a few minor issues prevent the dissolution from being finalized, only to result in one of the parties being required to file for a divorce anyway and much later than if they had simply started with the divorce.  For example, if one of the parties tries to date again before the dissolution is done, everything can blow up. 

The same can happen with a divorce, but there is more structure in place to keep it moving along.  Divorces should be started with the mindset of the parties ultimately reaching an agreement.  Whichever path, ending a marriage is difficult, painful, requires time to adjust, to forgive, and to redefine the relationship and the people involved.  Lives will change, but they will go on too.

If you are in need of assistance with a family law matter, visit my web page at http://sivinskilegal.com