Difference Between Dissolution and Divorce

What’s the Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution?

In legal and practical terms, both Dissolution of Marriage and Divorce are used to refer to the legal termination of a marriage. The choice between the terms can vary by state, but the legal process and outcome are the same: the marriage is legally ended. However, the terminology can differ based on jurisdictional preferences:

  • Divorce is the more commonly used term in everyday language and is widely recognized. It refers to the legal ending of a marriage by a court that resolves issues like asset division, child custody, child support, and alimony.
  • Dissolution of Marriage is a term that some states prefer to use in their legal documents and proceedings. It is essentially the same process as divorce but might be used in states that want to adopt a more neutral or modern terminology.

States with Specific Terminology or Processes

While the legal process of ending a marriage is universally available across the United States, some states may have specific nuances or preferred terminology:

  • California, Oregon, and Florida, for example, commonly use the term “dissolution of marriage” in their legal proceedings and documents.
  • Ohio differentiates between “divorce” and “dissolution of marriage.” In Ohio, a “dissolution of marriage” is a no-fault process where both parties agree on all terms before filing with the court, making it a mutual and uncontested end to the marriage. A Divorce in Ohio, however, can be contested and involves one party filing against the other, possibly citing grounds for the divorce.

Let’s start with what both terms have in common. Both divorce and dissolution result in the legal end of a marriage. Both divorce and dissolution require the parties to determine the terms of their separation in a separation agreement, which must address the division of property, payment of debts, child custody, visitation, spousal support, and payment of attorney fees.


The primary difference between divorce and dissolution is whether or not the parties are alleging the fault of the other spouse as the grounds for the divorce. Divorce requires that one party allege fault on the part of the other spouse as a reason for terminating the marriage. Examples of causes for divorce that Ohio recognizes are parties living apart for more than one year, adultery, habitual drunkenness, and extreme cruelty. Ohio lists these causes for divorce by statute and the list here is not a complete one.

Further, divorce is the option for legally ending a marriage when parties cannot agree on the terms of their separation agreement. If parties cannot decide between themselves for example as to how they will handle the separation of assets or custody of their children, a complaint for divorce is filed, and temporary motions and court involvement may be required.

Common Grounds for Divorce

Grounds for Divorce Description
Irreconcilable Differences Any kind of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the marriage and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Adultery One spouse engages in sexual relations with another person outside the marriage.
Desertion One spouse abandons the other for a continuous period without agreement or justification.
Physical or Mental Cruelty One spouse inflicts physical or emotional harm on the other, making living together unsafe or unbearable.
Drug Addiction or Alcoholism One spouse’s habitual drug abuse or excessive drinking deteriorates the marriage.
Mental Illness One spouse suffers from a mental disorder that renders them incapable of carrying out the marital relationship.
Conviction of a Felony One spouse is convicted of a crime that leads to a prison sentence.
Living Apart for a Specific Time Spouses live separately for a period of time, as required by some states before a divorce can be granted.


On the other hand, a dissolution can be thought of as a no-fault divorce. Fault grounds are not required for a dissolution. If the parties can negotiate and come to an agreement on all terms of their separation agreement, then the parties can petition for a dissolution. A dissolution of marriage can alleviate a lot of the divorce process and expense by eliminating the need for court involvement during negotiations. In a dissolution, once the parties reach an agreement as to the details of their separation agreement, the agreement can be filed with the court and a final merits hearing can be scheduled. Dissolution can be more streamlined than a divorce.

This nutshell view comparing the processes of divorce and dissolution is just a broad overview. Before undertaking a divorce or dissolution to end a marriage, consulting with an attorney can answer questions you may have about the specifics of your case.

What To Expect with a Divorce

With a divorce, there are typically controversial issues involved that make it a fight between a husband and a wife or between two domestic partners. Personal feelings and emotions can oftentimes influence not only the divorcing couple but also their children (if any) as well as their families and friends. It is not uncommon for people to choose sides and lose their impartiality. This is another reason why it is a good idea to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side.

What To Expect with a Dissolution

Obtaining a dissolution of marriage in Ohio means that the husband and the wife or the two domestic partners fully agree on every issue, both at the beginning of the dissolution and at the final hearing. It is a no-fault divorce with a written separation agreement that is filed with the court when the dissolution case begins. A dissolution is based on a full disclosure of all assets and liabilities.

It is also the quickest and least emotionally painful way to terminate a marriage. The final hearing for dissolution must take place within 90 days from the day of filing the petition. Because the terms of the dissolution are agreed to ahead of time, the heightened emotions associated with most divorces are avoided.

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