What's the Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution?
Family Law

What’s the Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution?

Ending a marriage can be an emotional journey and it has a huge impact on people and families, but children are often the ones who are greatly affected. Did you know that it’s estimated that there are 14.56 divorces per 1,000 married women?

Divorce litigation attorney Patricia A. Rigdon says that divorce is one of the most difficult situations a person will go through. This is why legal matters should be the least of their concerns at this point. Coping with the changes brought by divorce is already hard and it’s always wise to hire a divorce lawyer to help alleviate your stress and confusion with legal procedures.

In this article, we will talk about the difference between divorce and dissolution. While both are ways to end a marriage, divorce is for married couples, and dissolution is for those in a civil partnership. Here’s how these two differ:


Legal Definitions

When it comes to divorce, the legal definition refers to the termination of a marriage by a court order. This means that the marriage is legally dissolved, and both parties are no longer bound by their marital obligations. In order to obtain a divorce, you’ll need to meet certain criteria set by the law. These criteria may include residency requirements, grounds for divorce, and the division of assets and liabilities.

On the other hand, dissolution refers to the legal process of terminating a domestic partnership or civil union. Similar to divorce, dissolution requires meeting specific legal requirements. These requirements may include filing a petition, satisfying residency criteria, and addressing issues such as child custody, support, and property division. 

Just like property disputes, child custody issues often arise after divorce or dissolution. Child custody lawyers remind parents to always put the best interests of their children above all, regardless if they’re in the midst of a divorce or dissolution.

In a nutshell, while divorce and dissolution have similar goals, the legal definitions and requirements can vary depending on your jurisdiction. It’s crucial to consult with a qualified attorney who can guide you through the specific legal processes and ensure that your rights are protected.

Process and Requirements

In divorce, the process typically begins with one spouse filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. This involves submitting the necessary paperwork to the court and formally notifying the other spouse of the impending divorce. 

After the petition is filed, both parties are given the opportunity to gather and exchange relevant financial and personal information through a process known as discovery. This information is crucial in determining the division of assets, child custody arrangements, and spousal support.

Once the necessary information has been exchanged, negotiations and settlement discussions take place to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues. If an agreement can’t be reached, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge will make the final decisions regarding property division, child custody, and support.

In dissolution, both parties agree to end their marriage or domestic partnership. This involves submitting a joint petition to the court, along with a written agreement that addresses all relevant issues. The court will review the agreement and, if satisfied, grant the dissolution.

Property Division

When dividing property in a divorce or dissolution, it’s important to understand the specific laws and guidelines that govern the process. Property division refers to the allocation of assets and debts accumulated during the marriage or partnership. The laws regarding property division vary by jurisdiction, so it’s essential to consult with an attorney who’s familiar with the laws in your area.

There are two main approaches to property division: community property and equitable distribution. Community property states consider all assets and debts acquired during the marriage as equally owned by both spouses and divide them equally between them. 

On the other hand, equitable distribution states aim to divide property fairly, taking into account factors such as each spouse’s financial contributions, earning capacity, and other relevant circumstances.

To determine the value of the marital property, it’s important to gather all relevant financial documents, such as bank statements, tax returns, and property appraisals. It may be necessary to hire a professional appraiser to assess the value of real estate, businesses, or other valuable assets.

Child Custody and Support

As mentioned, child custody and support are crucial aspects to consider when going through a divorce or dissolution. When it comes to child custody, the court’s main concern is the best interests of the child. They’ll assess various factors such as the child’s age, physical and emotional needs, and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment.

Joint custody may be awarded, allowing both parents to share the responsibility and decision-making for the child. However, if one parent is deemed unfit or unable to care for the child, sole custody may be granted to the other parent.

Child support is another important consideration. It’s the legal obligation of both parents to financially support their child. The court will determine the amount of child support based on factors such as the income of both parents, the child’s needs, and the parenting time arrangement.

It is important to note that child custody and support arrangements can be modified in the future if there are significant changes in circumstances. It’s always advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law to ensure that your rights and the best interests of your child are protected throughout the divorce or dissolution process.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a financial arrangement that may be established during a divorce or dissolution to provide financial assistance to one spouse from the other. It’s a way of ensuring that both spouses maintain a similar standard of living after the marriage is dissolved.

The determination of spousal support depends on various factors, such as the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the needs of the receiving spouse. The court will consider the financial resources of both spouses, their age, health, and ability to work when determining the amount and duration of the support.

It can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances. Temporary support is awarded during the divorce process to provide immediate financial assistance, while permanent support is awarded for a longer duration or until certain conditions are met, such as the receiving spouse finding employment or remarrying.

Spousal support can be modified or terminated if there’s a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or health status. It’s crucial to consult with an attorney to understand the specific spousal support laws in your state and to ensure that your rights are protected during the divorce or dissolution process.


The key difference between divorce and dissolution lies in the legal process and requirements. While divorce involves a court proceeding to terminate a marriage, dissolution is a simpler, more amicable process where both parties agree to end the marriage. 

Whether you are going through divorce or dissolution, it’s always a good choice to consult a legal expert who can guide you through the process.

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