28 Apr

Dissolution versus Divorce

Jack and Sarah were high school sweethearts. They have been married for ten years. Jack is a manufacturers’ representative for a local steel company. Sarah is a Physician’s Assistant at an orthopedic medical practice. They have a nine year old son, Trevor, and a two year old daughter, Madison. Madison came along as an effort to save their failing marriage. It didn’t work. They tried marriage counseling; that didn’t work either. They don’t hate each other; they don’t love each other. They just aren’t the same people that they were in high school, and have simply grown apart. The children are the only thing that they have in common. So what do Jack and Sarah do now?

The best option for Jack and Sarah to end their marriage is dissolution. This legal proceeding has several advantages over a divorce. A Dissolution of Marriage action is typically much less costly than a divorce. It also is a quicker procedure. Dissolution is far less adversarial than is a divorce. Because of these factors, dissolution takes less of an emotional toll on the family.

Sarah calls an attorney and asks if she and Jack can come see the lawyer together to discuss ending their marriage. Many lawyers will request that, at least for the first meeting, Sarah come alone. The reason for this is that an attorney cannot represent both husband and wife in the dissolution. He or she will want to be able to speak candidly with Sarah as to what is in her best interest before moving ahead with the representation. Many times in a dissolution action, only one party is represented. The lawyer may give the unrepresented party information about the dissolution process, but cannot give him legal advice. The lawyer must inform the unrepresented party of his or her right to obtain independent counsel, if they so choose.

The key word in obtaining dissolution of marriage is “agreement.” If the parties cannot come to an agreement on any one of the following issues, they will not be granted dissolution of their marriage. Jack and Sarah must agree on a division of all of their assets. In their case, their home, vehicles, pensions, checking and savings accounts, and household goods and furnishings. Additionally, they must agree on who will be responsible for payment of their various debts.

Jack and Sarah also must agree whether either will pay the other spousal support, or alimony as it was formerly known. Then there are the issues concerning the children. Who will be the custodial parent? What parenting time will the non-custodial parent have with the children? Perhaps Jack and Sarah will agree to a Shared Parenting Plan where each will be the custodial parent when the children are in their respective custody. Additionally, they will need to agree on payment of child support, and provision of health insurance for Trevor and Madison. They may want to include provisions in their Shared Parenting Plan such as transportation responsibility, payment for extra-curricular activities, and religious upbringing, to name a few.

Once Jack and Sarah have reached an agreement on all required issues, the attorney prepares the necessary paperwork, and files the documents with the court. Before they can be granted their dissolution, Jack and Sarah must attend a seminar regarding parenting issue. Their hearing can be no sooner than thirty days after they have filed for dissolution, nor later than ninety days after the filing. The hearing itself is very brief. Once Jack and Sarah testify that they have read and understand their agreement, are making knowing and voluntary decisions, and do, in fact want a dissolution; their marriage will be ended.


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