In Ohio, a dissolution is a non-adversarial proceeding to legally terminate a marriage. A Dissolution also means that the terms of the divorce are decided between the two parties before any documents are filed with the court.
Unlike a divorce, the negotiating couple is expected to voluntarily trade any and all information as part of their dissolution. The courts do not have subpoena power during a dissolution and cannot put temporary orders in place or force either side to share information. The court does allow professionals to be hired to evaluate property or give financial advice.
What does a Dissolution Involve?
Going through a dissolution requires that both parties agree on a legally binding contract known as a Separation Agreement. In Ohio, not same as legal separation. This paper is required to be attached to the dissolution petition. In order to file this agreement, you and your spouse must agree on the following issues:
Property: Real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, household furniture, stocks and bonds, retirement and profit sharing plans, and other assets.
Debts: What is paid and when. Who is responsible for particular debts and attorney fees.
Spousal support. Who pays, how much and for how long. Frequency paid and by what method.
If you have children, the state of Ohio requires that you also create a separate Shared Parenting Plan. This document will describe child support, parental rights, medical care, visitation rights, responsibility for decision making, tax exemptions, life insurance designee and anything else concerning the child’s needs.
The entire Separation Agreement must comply with Ohio law regarding parenting, division of property and child and spousal support. The Separation Agreement must be entered into voluntarily by both spouses. If the couple is unable to reach agreement on all of the issues, then a dissolution will not be possible and a divorce must be filed for instead.
Once the Dissolution petition, Separation Agreement and Shared Parenting Plan have been created, the spouses can file a joint petition with the court. This petition—signed and approved of by both parties—requests that the court review and approve the agreement the couple have entered into. Like a divorce case, process service must take place, but since both parties are present they simply sign a waiver or service and attach it to the petition.
How Long Will it Take?
The length of time a marriage dissolution process takes depends on several factors, especially how long it takes both people to reach an agreement that works for both of them. Dissolution is usually shorter than divorce—taking a few months from start to finish—but can take less or more time depending on the circumstances. However, once the required documents have been prepared and filed with the court, a court Hearing will be scheduled. According to Ohio Law the hearing date must take place within 30 to 90 days.
During the hearing, both spouses will be asked simple questions to make sure they meet the legal requirements to have their marriage ended. They also must testify that they are both satisfied with the agreement, that the agreement was entered into voluntarily, that they have disclosed all financial debts and assets and that they still wish to proceed with the dissolution. The couple will then be asked to verify their signatures on all documents.
The court will then have to approve the Separation Agreement. The judge does have the power to make changes or disallow the petition, but this rarely happens. If the judge feels that everything is in order and that the judgement is both fair and legal, the court will usually grant the petition terminating the marriage.
If only one of you is able to attend the final court hearing, you may have to get what is known as an uncontested divorce. Similar to a dissolution, an uncontested divorce is usually quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce. An uncontested divorce is good for couples who are already living in different states or countries or have other barriers that prevent the both of them from attending the final hearing.
The end result of a dissolution is the same as a divorce. The marriage is legally terminated.
Why should you get a Dissolution?
- The terms of your marriage termination were worked out before any documents were filed, so there is no need to go to trial in Family Court. All personal issues were discussed in private, so unlike a divorce trial, they do not become a matter of public record.
- A divorce trial in family court means that both participants lose the opportunity to control what happens—because decisions are made by a judge instead.
- A Dissolution is almost always and easier and cheaper alternative to filing for divorce.
- If you have children, the more amicable you can make the divorce proceedings, the better. Having their parents end their marriage is stressful enough. Disagreeing on issues and a prolonged court battle only makes things worse for everyone involved.
When should you consider a Divorce?
- Abusive situations. When there has been abuse in the marriage, a contested divorce can assure the interest of the abused spouse is protected. Unlike a dissolution, this also allows a court to put temporary—but legally binding—orders in effect that
- Complicated financial issues. Although many financial issues can be worked out with a mediator, for more intricate money issues it is often best to have everything on record.
- Your spouse refuses to sign any legal documents pertaining to the divorce. Your spouse cannot force you to stay in your marriage, but if both parties disagree or refuse to sign, one spouse will be required to file for a divorce instead of a dissolution.
- You live in different parts of the country, or even another country. If only one of you will be able to attend a final court hearing, then you most likely have to consider an uncontested divorce.
It is important to remember that the parties must agree on everything beforehand—every detail must be sorted out and agreed to in writing. If you and your spouse have decided to move on with your lives and can agree on all the terms, dissolution provides an easier and less costly alternative to filing for a divorce.
Need more information on the difference between Dissolution and Divorce? Give Jack's Law Office a call at (740) 369-7567.