A dissolution or uncontested divorce is a way to terminate a marriage that is totally consensual. Both parties are in agreement with respect to all marital issues. Each sign the petition for dissolution and a separation agreement is attached, also signed by both spouses. This agreement discusses such matters as a division of property, spousal support, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, visitation rights, and any other important issues.
Both documents are filed with the court and a hearing must be held in 90 days. Some courts hold it sooner, but it must be at least 30 days after the petition for dissolution is filed. Both parties must attend the hearing and state that they are satisfied with the separation agreement; have made full disclosure of all assets and liabilities; have voluntarily signed the agreement; believe it to be fair and still want the marriage dissolved. The court then grants the dissolution if all necessary paperwork is in order.
Agreement between the parties is the crucial aspect that must be present in order to properly execute dissolution. The couple is basically asking the court to terminate the marriage and approve their agreement as to how to end the relationship.
Dissolution provides the parties the most privacy because no one has to allege a reason for the failure of the marriage. It is not an adversarial proceeding—it is a “no-fault” situation. A judge or magistrate does not have to make any decisions about the termination of the marriage—the parties make them.
Sometimes an uncontested divorce is one in which one of the parties cannot be found due to incarceration in an unknown location or because one of the spouses is unresponsive to efforts to communicate and/or does not answer the divorce complaint. The marriage partner filing for divorce must only obtain the paperwork and file for divorce, then attempt to serve papers on the absent spouse. The party filing for divorce must then show up in court with witnesses to attest to the grounds of the marriage in order to be granted a divorce.
A divorce is a contested lawsuit. It is the legal separation and termination of the marital relationship granted upon a finding by the court that certain statutory “grounds” for divorce exist. The spouse who files for divorce (the plaintiff) files a complaint against the other spouse in the Domestic Relations Division of the local Common Pleas Court and states the “grounds” for the divorce.
In Ohio, the grounds for divorce are extreme cruelty, willful absence for more than one year, adultery, habitual drunkenness, gross neglect of duty, bigamy, fraudulent contract, incarceration, and procurement of a divorce outside the state by the husband or wife. The plaintiff and a corroborating witness testify concerning the grounds unless the other spouse enters an admission.
In a divorce, litigation is involved in the form of discovery, hearings and often a trial. There is usually at least one year of litigation as the parties may need the help of legal counsel or a judge to resolve their differences.
Which one to choose?
Dissolution, especially if there are no children, is generally much faster than obtaining a contested divorce, unless the divorcing spouses need to negotiate terms of a parenting agreement, a separation agreement or financial arrangements. Because it is generally faster, dissolution generally costs less, but it depends on individual preferences. Many people want to retain a lawyer to assure their interests are represented, just like in a divorce.
Although it may at first appear everything about the divorce has been decided in advance, what starts as a dissolution could end up as a contested divorce proceeding as the couple splitting up delves deeper into the division of property, debt accrued, child custody arrangements, and spousal or child support.
Divorce is the better choice over dissolution when the parties cannot agree to an equitable settlement of marital issues. If the spouses become more cooperative with each other, the parties may be able to reach a settlement on many issues and avoid going to trial. This will usually reduce expense and the time it takes to be granted a divorce.
It is sometimes difficult to decide if dissolution or contested divorce is the best choice for you. Why not take the time to talk with one of our experienced Ohio divorce lawyers at Slater & Zurz LLP. We always try to negotiate with an eye toward agreement, but trials do happen and we are prepared to go to court if our clients are not getting what they deserve from the other side.
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