Ending a marriage is not easy; it involves a long process. However, you need not always part ways after arguments and conflicts. There are certain legal procedures, which give the couple a chance to end the marriage on mutually agreed terms.
One such procedure is the dissolution of marriage. If you are looking for ways to end your marriage amicably, then this MomJunction post could be helpful. We tell you about the common procedure followed for the dissolution of marriage in the US.
What Is Dissolution Of Marriage?
Dissolution of marriage is the legal procedure to end a marriage officially. In dissolution, both the parties come to a mutual agreement on the division of marital property, spousal support, parental rights, and child support. So, there is no space for accusations and counter-accusations.
You can file for the dissolution of marriage on the grounds that fall within the legal framework of the state legislature.
Is The Dissolution of marriage different from divorce?
Both dissolution and divorce are the legal ways to end a marriage and are used interchangeably. However, in a dissolution of marriage, both the parties come to a mutual agreement regarding the distribution of property, child custody, alimony, etc., and the court passes the decree without any further trials.
On the other hand, divorce happens when the parties have a disagreement and decide to fight it out in court. The court intervenes and settles the disputes in a series of trials.
What Are The Grounds For Dissolution Of Marriage?
In the US, each state has its own set of grounds. The below flowchart covers the most common grounds for dissolution of marriage, followed by a detailed explanation:
* They are not the grounds but the type of marriage that the couple might have entered.
1. Grounds for no-fault dissolution of marriage
In this type, both the partners file a petition of mutual agreement to separate without the need to prove the fault of their spouse. The most common ground in the case of no-fault dissolution is “irreparable breakdown of marriage” or “irreconcilable differences”.
After both the partners have agreed and signed the petition for this type of dissolution, they cannot object to the other party’s plea for dissolution. In this type of dissolution, the couple needs to stay apart for a certain period of time before filing the petition.
In the US, a few states accept only the no-fault grounds. Next, we tell you about the various aspects of such dissolution of marriage.
I. The true no-fault states: 17 US states grant the dissolution on the no-fault grounds only. This means the divorce is granted on the basis of “irreconcilable differences” between the couple. The court does not allow casting faults as a ground for the dissolution of marriage. However, if there are faults, they could be considered as a factor at the time of granting child custody, dividing the property, providing alimony, etc.
The true no-fault states areWisconsin, Kentucky, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, and California.
The below table covers the basic features of a true no-fault dissolution in each state:
|State||Residency requirement||Property division||Do-it-yourself dissolution|
|Oregon||Six months or 180 days before filing for dissolution||Yes|
|Nevada||At least six weeks||Community property: Any income or property earned by the couple during their marriage is community property and is divided equally.||Yes|
|Nebraska||One year||Equitable division||Yes|
|Montana||90 days||Equitable division||Yes|
|Minnesota||Six months or 180 days||Equitable division|
|Hawaii||Six months||Equitable division||Yes|
|Colorado||3 months or 90 days||Equitable division||Yes|
|Wisconsin||30 days||Community property division||Yes|
|Kentucky||180 days||Equitable distribution||Yes|
|Washington||90 days||Community property distribution||Yes|
|Missouri||90 days||Equitable distribution||Yes|
|Michigan||1 year||Equitable distribution||Yes|
|Iowa||1 year||Equitable distribution||Yes|
Child custody and support in the true no-fault states:
The court usually looks for joint custody. Where that is not possible, it will consider factors such as emotional ties, interest, desirability, and absence of abusive behavior while deciding the custody. The individual income levels are also a deciding factor.
II. Exceptions among the true no-fault states
A few states among the true no-fault states accept “incurable insanity” as a ground for dissolution, along with “irreconcilable differences”. If the spouse is insane and mentally incompetent for some time, and the doctors have confirmed that there is no chance of recovery, or if the partner fails to perform marital duties, then the court will accept the dissolution of marriage. Those states include:
|State||Residency requirement||Property division||Do it yourself dissolution|
|California||6 months||Community property distribution||Yes|
|Florida||6 months||Equitable distribution||Yes|
|Kansas||60 days||Equitable distribution||Yes|
|Indiana||6 months||Equitable distribution||Yes|
|North Carolina||6 months||Equitable distribution||Yes|
Process For Dissolution Of Marriage Under No-Fault Grounds
- Both the partners must come to a mutual agreement that they are intending to dissolve the marriage due to irrevocable differences.
- Each state in the US has specific requirements when it comes to the residency, property settlements and child support, check what is applicable to you.
- Come to a mutual agreement on all the aspects of the dissolution, such as the distribution of marital property, child support and custody, and alimony.
- The official divorce forms can be obtained from the court clerk, online or from your local library.
- Fill in the forms and submit them, along with the necessary proofs, at the court clerk’s office. You may have to pay a filing fee.
- The spouse must be notified, and a proof of that must be attached.
- Unless there are any objections or obstacles, there will be one hearing, and the judge will ask for any additional information needed.
- After the waiting period, the judge will sign a certificate officially dissolving the marriage.
2. Grounds For Fault Dissolution Of Marriage
In this type, there is no agreement between the couple. The divorce is initiated by one of the partners stating one or multiple grounds for the dissolution. In such cases, the court will tell the defendant to counter.
The marriage cannot be dissolved and is now termed as a divorce, wherein both the parties have to hire lawyers and proceed to trial until the court grants divorce as well as decides on the property distribution and child custody rights. Fault dissolutions do not require the partners to live apart for a specific period of time.
The usual grounds for a fault dissolution of marriage are:
- Voluntary abandonment for a certain period of time
- When one of the partners is facing life imprisonment in any state for a period of more than one year and has a minimum sentence of seven years
- The commission of a crime against nature or a beast either before or during the marriage
- Getting into addictions such as alcohol, narcotics, etc., after marriage
- Confinement of the partner to an asylum and is declared incurable at the time of filing the petition.
- If the wife gets pregnant during their marriage without the husband’s knowledge
- In the case of violent, cruel and inhuman treatment
The rest of the states except the true no-fault states accept both fault and no-fault grounds for dissolution of marriage. However, as mentioned in the previous section, the five states from the no-fault category accept only insanity as the ground.
Covenant and non-covenant marriages
In states like Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas there is an option to choose from the covenant and non-covenant marriages. The main differences between these two are:
- In a covenant marriage, the couple needs to seek pre-marital counseling as well as counseling before filing for dissolution.
- The grounds for filing dissolution in a covenant marriage are fewer when compared to non-covenant marriage.
- Irrevocable differences is not an adequate reason for seeking the dissolution of a covenant marriage.
- The couple has to stay apart for two years prior to the filing of dissolution and one year apart after thedecree of legal separation.
Process For Dissolution Of Marriage Under Fault Grounds
In this type of dissolution, the partner chooses to cast a fault such as adultery, abandonment, a felony, imprisonment, etc., on the other partner for the failure of the marriage.
- Both parties need to hire legal help to represent them in court.
- As per the reason quoted for the dissolution of marriage, the judge might ask for additional proofs to substantiate the accusations.
- The defendant spouse is notified through a legal notice, and they need to attend the court hearings.
- There would be multiple hearings until the court is convinced that the fault stated for the dissolution is true.
- The division of assets, alimony and child custody will be decided by the court.
Do You Need A Lawyer For Dissolution Of Marriage?
Not necessary. You can proceed with a do-it-yourself dissolution of marriage if your case meets the following criteria.
- Both the parties have opted for a no-fault ground for the dissolution.
- Both you and your partner have come to a mutual agreement about the assets division, child custody, spousal support, etc.
- Your marriage is a non-covenant marriage.
- You have adequate information about your family’s assets and debts.
- You have the time and patience to acquire all the papers, fill the forms and file them.
- You have hired a professional mediator to deal with one or two minor issues that are blocking the dissolution.
You may hire a lawyer if your divorce is based on any of the fault grounds as you need someone to represent you in the court to prove your allegations. Also, consider hiring a lawyer if you are emotionally unstable or not sure of the procedure.
What Is A Certificate Of Dissolution Of Marriage?
It is an official court decree or order that states a particular marriage is no longer valid. In many states, the court signs an official order for dissolution of marriage. It contains the details of marital property distribution and the date of dissolution.
This certificate is needed for various post-divorce activities such as updating insurance policies, changing bank account names, etc.
How Long Will It Take To Get a Dissolution decree?
It might take six weeks to 12 months in the case of a no-fault or uncontested dissolution of marriage and nine months to one year in the case of a faults or contested dissolution of marriage.
Various factors can influence the time taken to get the final order. Some of them are:
- The nature of the dissolution — whether it is contested or uncontested and covenant or non-covenant.
- The value of the assets that need to be distributed between the parties.
- If the state has some legal separation or waiting period before and after the divorce.
- If there is any prenuptial agreement in place.
- The waiting period the judge legally takes to sign the legal decree.
Irrespective of the nature of dissolution, mutual cooperation, and readiness to clear all the legal requirements by both the parties can help in speeding up the process.
Dissolution of marriage involves several legal requirements, multiple discussions with your spouse, agreements, the filing of papers and procedures. You may not be in an emotional state to go through this elaborate process. Therefore, seek support from your family and close friends, who can do some of the jobs for you.
Also, each US state has specific requirements. Hence, we advise you to know about the state laws before proceeding with the process.
What is your take on the dissolution of marriage? Let us know in the comments section below.
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