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Marriage Dissolution vs. Divorce


If your marriage is coming to an end there are many important decisions that lie ahead. One of the biggest is deciding between a marriage dissolution or a divorce. Both dissolution and divorce are legal processes, and the outcome is exactly the same: you are ending a marriage. Attorneys often say the difference between a divorce and dissolution hinges on whether a spouse faults the other for the breakup. Still, it’s a little more complicated than that. Below, we’ll break down why some couples choose marriage dissolution vs. divorce. A financial advisor can help make a plan for your money when the time comes to move on from a marriage.

Marriage Dissolution vs. Divorce

Marriage Dissolution vs. Divorce

People often use divorce interchangeably with dissolution, but the two legal processes have some significant differences. Generally, if you divorce, a court will be involved in making decisions about how assets are distributed and which parent the children should live with. If you go through a marriage dissolution, you’ll work out the details of the split amongst yourselves  or possibly with a mediator. A judge will likely only be present at the end of a marriage dissolution to review the separation agreement and parenting plan (if there is one), as well as ensure that both parties are satisfied with the details of the split.

In the case of a divorce, a court is much more involved in the entire process. The court, not the couple, will make the final decisions about what life will look like for both parties after the marriage has ended. That may not be a bad development. If a couple is truly at war, a judge weighing in and being the arbiter of decisions may be the only reasonable solution. The couple can try to work toward an agreement in the case of a divorce, but the court has the final say on topics of child custody, visitation arrangements, child support and spousal support, also known as alimony and spousal maintenance.

On the whole, a dissolution is generally far less expensive and considered to be less contentious between the two parties than a divorce. At least, it is supposed to be.

The Reasons a Couple May Choose a Dissolution or Divorce

Most couples would probably rather complete a marriage dissolution vs. divorce. Sometimes, however, they have no choice but to go through with a divorce. This may be especially true for a couple that can’t come to an agreement on how assets should be divided. A judge may be needed to divide current assets and investments, make financial decisions involving a couple’s estate plan, and rule on child custody.

Marriages are complicated, and there are many reasons one or both parties may opt for a dissolution or divorce. Here are some common reasons couples may decide to go down one path or the other.

Dissolution may be the better option if:

  • You both are in agreement that the marriage simply isn’t working. You both feel that no one, in particular, is at fault. Dissolutions are often called no-fault divorces. If you both agree that nobody should be held responsible in court for the marriage ending, that should bode well in splitting up assets and making decisions about child care.
  • If you both believe that you can be fair in how you treat each other when making decisions that will affect you both, post-marriage. Just because you both no longer want to be married, it doesn’t mean that you automatically have to dislike the other.
  • You both are committed to getting through the divorce as inexpensively as possible. Hiring lawyers and paying court fees is, of course, expensive. Avoiding spending a fortune on attorneys could mean more money for both of you after the marriage is over.

Divorce may be necessary if:

  • You don’t trust your partner or your partner intimidates you. You may, for instance, fear that your partner will hide assets from you. During its discovery process, the court may be able to ferret out any secret bank accounts that either party might be hiding. Still, if you’re worried about safeguarding your finances from an untrustworthy partner, you may want to talk to a divorce financial advisor.
  • One person doesn’t want to end the marriage and, in fact, refuses to. In that case, the person who does want to terminate the marriage may have no choice but to use the courts to legally end the marriage.
  • You both have a lot of assets and a lot to lose if things go wrong. You may both feel that it’s in your best interest to have your lawyers and the court work things out. That doesn’t necessarily mean things have to be contentious, however. In fact, you could have lawyers work together but not necessarily hash everything out in court. Your attorneys could engage in what is generally known as alternative dispute resolution, which offers court alternatives, such as mediation and arbitration.
  • Before the marriage, one or both parties may have signed a prenuptial agreement and may feel that the court is needed, to ensure that the agreement is honored.

The Bottom Line

Marriage Dissolution vs. Divorce

Ending a marriage is hard and will probably be painful on some level, even in the best of circumstances. But the legal process doesn’t have to be contentious. Especially if children are involved, many couples generally want to end marriages as peacefully as possible. Marriage dissolution can be amicable and straightforward, although some couples require the courts and official divorce proceedings. If you want to end your marriage amicably and inexpensively, you probably can – provided you have a willing partner.

Financial Tips For Divorce

  • Some financial advisors, including certified divorce financial analysts (CDFAs), specialize in helping people go through divorces. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • A domestic asset protection trust (DAPT) can be used to shield assets from a spouse during a divorce, making them an alternative to a prenuptial agreement. After transferring your assets to a trustee, the assets are no longer considered marital property.

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