Thursday, August 27, 2009

Terminating the Ohio Marriage: Divorce and Dissolution Overview

A Hudson, Ohio client met with me recently to discuss the possible termination of her marriage. While we would like to believe that the marriage contract lasts forever, more than fifty percent (50%) of all marriages will terminate before forever. In Ohio, Divorce and Dissolution are two separate legal actions by which the marital contract is terminated. The key difference between the two processes is that with divorce, there is heavy court involvement because the court system is used to resolve all issues relating to the termination of the marriage perhaps because you and your spouse cannot reach agreement on any number of issues, from how marital property will be divided to how parenting of the children will be arranged. With dissolution, the net result is the same, i.e., termination of the marriage, but there is much less court involvement than divorce because the husband and wife agree upfront on how issues will be resolved and simply petition the court to approve their agreement. Big difference.

As War of the Roses illustrates, divorces can be nasty, costly affairs, with couples fighting in high drama fashion about how the assets will be divided or, worse, fights about who will have custody of the children. These fights are usually presented to the court by way of legal filings and hearings ….think expensive lawyer fees. In addition, think long protracted court case. The typical divorce action takes one year to complete.

Dissolution is neither nasty nor costly. Step one in dissolution process is for you and your spouse to reach agreement on property division, parenting issues, and whether and to what extent spousal support will be provided. This agreement, the separation agreement, is then presented to the court with the Petition for Dissolution. Step two in the dissolution process is a hearing before the court scheduled no earlier than 30 days and no later than 90 days after the filing. The dissolution hearing is a very quick affair in which the court reviews the dissolution petition and separation agreement with the parties, assuring that it is, in fact, the agreement that was intended.

When you have decided to move on and terminate your marriage, it is a sad affair. You can make it less painful in terms of costs and time, by choosing the dissolution route. There are, however, many situations in which dissolution is not an option, perhaps because one party is simply unreasonable and wants the other party to enter into a lopsided agreement. Consult an attorney to explore these and other options.

Carol L. Gasper can be reached at (330) 425-1599.