The end result of both dissolution and divorce proceedings is the same — termination of marriage. Which one of these two types of proceedings is utilized depends upon whether or not the parties settle all issues prior to initiating court action.
If the parties reach a written agreement regarding all issues prior to initiating court action, they may then file a Petition for Dissolution jointly. The written agreement must include resolution of all property, debt, child support, spousal support, income tax and child custody issues. Dissolution proceedings are always no-fault in nature and a final hearing is held quickly (between 30 and 90 days) after the parties’ file their Petition for Dissolution.
The key to obtaining a dissolution is negotiation of the terms of the written agreement. That negotiation can occur either as a non-adversarial process (such as in a collaborative process) or as an adversarial process (such as in traditional lawyer negotiations). Choosing the nature of the negotiation process is therefore an extremely important decision whenever either spouse is contemplating termination of the marriage.
A divorce proceeding is a lawsuit filed by one spouse against the other. Ordinarily there is no written agreement in place when the complaint for divorce is filed. Filing for divorce launches the contested litigation process, which is the most adversarial and generally the most costly process both financially and relationally. Even though most divorce lawsuits are ultimately settled, those settlements often only come after nine to eighteen (and sometimes more) months of contentious fighting.
The expected stress and conflict inherent in any termination of marriage is drawn out and compounded by divorce litigation. Because this usually results in permanent damage to the parties’ children and their parenting relationship, we urge our clients to exercise prudence and restraint before filing a divorce lawsuit. In many instances, a divorce lawsuit is not necessary to resolve the matter and it is wiser to attempt to initiate a negotiation process designed to ultimately result in a dissolution proceeding.