Divorce v. Dissolution: What is the difference?

This article simplistically identifies the main issues in the termination of the marital contract and explains the difference between a divorce and dissolution and why a dissolution is always the best, least stressful and most cost-effective means to terminate the marital contract. The issues in either a dissolution or divorce are the same. They are as follows: (1.) Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities, if there are children. The main issues regarding the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities would include who pays child support and how much, companionship time (formerly “visitation”), who has custody or how is shared parenting (formerly “joint custody”) to be allocated, who is responsible for health care/ insurance and how will the tax exemption be divided. (2.) Spousal support. Will one party pay the other spousal support and how much and for how long? (3.) Property distribution. How will the marital real and personal property and all other marital assets be divided. (4.) Pension and retirement division, if in existence. And, finally, (5.) Allocation of marital debt. These are the main issues in every divorce and/or dissolution.

The most fundamental difference between a contested divorce and a dissolution is that in a contested divorce the parties cannot agree on one or more of the issues whereas in a dissolution the parties must agree on ALL issues. Dissolutions are very cost effective. The cost of the dissolution varies based upon the number of issues in the case (listed above).  The cost of a dissolution is dramatically less than a divorce (the parties cannot agree on one or more of the issues).  The average cost of a divorce with children in Ohio is $18,800 and without children $12,500 (Lawyers.com survey).  The average cost of a dissolution with children is $3000 and without children $2000. Most importantly, the emotional cost of a prolonged divorce is high to both parties and children.

Dissolutions are fast. A dissolution can be finalized in as little as six-weeks from the filing date and, usually, requires only one hearing. An action for divorce- if the parties cannot come to a voluntary agreement- can easily take a year or longer to finalize. There are several hearings and a trial. The information gathering process referred to as “discovery” can become a costly and stressful nightmare. Discovery is not required in a dissolution. In divorce, there is the dread of runaway attorney fees averaging $250- $300 per hour.  There is always the worry (which is justified) that the attorney will quit if you run out of money or the fear of receiving another several thousand-dollar bill unexpectedly. Almost everyone has heard a horror story about attorney fees.

At Biales Delchin Law, dissolution is a flat fee. Our clients don’t worry about getting a huge hourly bill after the initial payment.

The emotional price of continuous daily resentment, depression, fear and worry can become overbearing and destructive to one’s health. Dissolution avoids all of this. That being said; It is very difficult to get two people who are usually not the best of friends- to begin with- to agree on all issues. All issues must be agreed to for a successful dissolution to occur. This requires compromise. The cardinal rule is that nobody walks away happy. Each party usually feels wronged in some way by the other. Each party usually feels that they could have obtained a better result if they would have just held out longer or been more aggressive.  The truth is the law is pretty well settled on how property and children are resolved. In most cases, you will not get a better result by engaging in prolonged divorce litigation.

If the parties are unable to come to an agreement regarding all the issues, as is often the case, a divorce must be initiated. I try to resolve as many issues as possible before hand and communicate with the other party or his/her attorney to coordinate the process. It is always best to work together and focus upon resolution of the issues on which the parties agree. The purpose of the attorney is to make the process as minimally painful, and least expensive as possible. Open and honest communication is key. Unfortunately, in many cases, the parties have so much resentment toward each other that they are simply unable to cooperate. This is never in anybody’s best interest and can be very damaging to children.

There are certainly ways to minimize the pain and cost of a divorce but it will never be as efficient and emotionally healthy as two parties coming to a voluntary agreement with dissolution. I believe that a dissolution really should be possible in most cases if two factors are present (1.) the parties are mature, sensitive and intelligent and  (2.) the matter is approached with a cost versus benefit business analysis, an open mind and sound professional guidance. I know this is easier said than done. But- if accomplished- the financial and emotional rewards (including healing time) reaped are enormous for the parties and children and will be enjoyed for the span of one’s entire life.

Robert C. Biales

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