People often use the words dissolution and divorce interchangeably, simply referring to the process of ending a marriage. And, to some degree, these processes do achieve a similar goal. The couple would like to end the marriage that they entered together, and these are two ways of accomplishing that end.
Yet, dissolution and divorce are distinctly different ways to approach the same issue, so the terms should generally not be used in interchangeable ways. Let’s look at some of the ways in which they are different and why people opt to choose one over the other.
Mutual agreement vs. filing a lawsuit
One of the easiest ways to think about this distinction is that in asking for a dissolution of your marriage, you and your spouse have mutually agreed that you would like to take that step. In the same way that you agreed to get married, you are agreeing to end that marriage. Dissolution is the formal legal process that you have to go through to do so. The process is vaguely similar to signing documents at a marriage ceremony, as you and your spouse are working together (likely alongside your attorneys) to put things to an end.
Divorce refers to a situation in which one person has filed a lawsuit asking for divorce from the other. They are essentially suing for a divorce. This is a bit different in the modern era than it used to be for previous generations because of no-fault divorce laws. But a divorce is still a process initiated by one party, rather than something carried out by both people together.
That doesn’t mean that every divorce case has to go to trial. Once you sue for divorce, your spouse may agree to start working with you to settle on mutually-agreeable divorce terms. But the court can step in if this is impossible. If you start with dissolution in mind, you and your spouse are working together from the very beginning.
There is more than one way to end a marriage and neither option is right for every couple. This is just one of the many reasons why it’s so important to know what legal steps you can take before committing to a plan of action.