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What Is the Difference Between a Dissolution and a Divorce?

Jim Robenalt Dec. 13, 2023

Did you know you have two options to terminate your marriage?

These are dissolution and divorce.

This article will discuss the difference between the two and what is likely the best option under certain circumstances.

The Basics of Dissolution and Divorce

In Ohio, you have two main options to terminate a marriage legally. 

Dissolution and divorce deliver the same result, but the difference lies in their process. 

If you want greater control in coming up with post-marriage terms, you want to go with dissolution. On the other hand, the court will decide on the terms of the divorce.

There is a third option. However, it doesn’t terminate a marriage. Instead, legal separation only allows the spouses to agree on living separately. This is a popular option because some people don’t want to go through divorce for religious or other personal reasons.


This option is sometimes called the “uncontested” approach to ending a marriage.

You and your spouse can agree on the terms of your post-marriage life. These terms pertain to child custody, support, and property division after the marriage ends.

One of the reasons why this option is popular is because it is faster and less expensive than a litigated divorce. In one to three months, you can already end your marriage through dissolution.

Here’s how dissolution works.

Cooperation is the key to dissolution. You and your spouse need to work together in your plan to end the marriage.

There will be forms to fill out before going to court.

If all goes well, the entire process will only take 30 to 90 days from the filing date. That’s considerably less time than a litigated divorce.

On the other hand, if you and your spouse cannot work together as you disagree on any issue, your recourse is divorce. This could mean restarting the divorce process by asking the court to terminate the dissolution.

Sit Down with Your Spouse

Talking with your spouse is the best way to ensure success with dissolution. 

Take the time to discuss how you want things post-marriage. You and your spouse will need to put your heads together on the following crucial issues:

  • how do you want to divide the properties and share responsibility for the liabilities

  • the possibility of giving spousal support to either one of you

  • who will have custody of the children and visitation rights for the non-custodial parent

  • payment of child support

After agreeing, you and your spouse can file for dissolution.

Here are the steps to follow when pursuing dissolution.

First, you need to fill out the forms together with your spouse. Here you will provide the details regarding support and custody.

The next step is to submit these forms to the court, which will schedule a hearing.

In that hearing, the court will ask questions to ensure that you and your spouse haven’t changed your mind about the agreed terms. If it sees that the agreement is fair and reasonable, the court will finalize the dissolution of your marriage.

Who Can File for Dissolution in Ohio

You or your spouse must be a resident of Ohio for at least six months to get a dissolution. 

Unfortunately, not everyone can file for dissolution in Ohio.

For instance, you cannot file for dissolution if you or your spouse is pregnant. You will have to wait until the baby is born.

Dissolution is also not an option for you who have a history of domestic violence or physical abuse.

And it’s also not an option if you and your spouse cannot agree on fundamental issues like custody, support, and property division.

To-Do List Before Filing for Dissolution

You need to gather and decide on a few things with your spouse before filing for dissolution.

First, you need your finances. The court will require information on your income, assets, and debts. 

Second, a parenting plan for your children, if you have any. You and your spouse must agree on how to raise them after your marriage ends. The court will also require details on support and custody for the children.

Third, the division of marital assets and liabilities. The court will need information on how you and your spouse divide your money, property, and debts.

Lastly, you need to complete the required forms. It would help if you had them notarized before taking them to court.


While dissolution is popular as a quick and often inexpensive approach, divorce is the most commonly resorted option. It takes longer to get a final decree and doesn’t have the stringent requirements that dissolution has.

You don’t have to reach an agreement with your spouse on property division, custody, and support before filing for divorce. You don’t have to be friends with your spouse.

Unlike dissolution, the court will decide on matters you and your spouse cannot agree on. 

In addition, divorce is more complicated than dissolution. It is contentious, and you must argue through the proceedings to get what you want. So it helps to have a lawyer to help you.

Who Can File for Divorce in Ohio

To file for divorce in Ohio, you or your spouse must be a state resident for at least six months.

The court, however, will not finalize the divorce if you or your spouse is pregnant. You will have to wait until the baby is born.

Contrary to what most people think, you don’t need to be legally separated from your spouse before filing for divorce. You can pursue either option because one is not dependent on the other.

To-Do List Before Filing for Divorce

First, you must hire a lawyer to make sound decisions concerning your divorce filing. 

Your lawyer can speak for you in court if you have custody and support issues with your spouse. Having a lawyer is even more crucial if you have a history of domestic violence or abuse in your marriage.

Second, you need to gather your finances. Get complete details of your income, assets, and liabilities. 

Third, consider your needs during the pendency of the litigation. Divorce proceedings can usually take up to two years of contentious court action. So it’s crucial to have everything you need in the meantime. This is especially applicable if you have the kids with you.

With your lawyer’s help, you can request temporary orders for child support and alimony. You can also ask the court to divide the properties to help pay some bills.

Grounds for Divorce

Most people cite incompatibility as grounds for filing for divorce. 

Incompatibility means it is impossible to stay married to your spouse. You don’t need to prove this in court if you decide to use this ground. Instead, you and your spouse need to agree that you are incompatible.

There are other reasons that you can use to file for divorce. Here are 10 other grounds.

1. Neglect of duty to give each other respect, support, and fidelity

Long-term or severe failure to fulfill these marital duties can be grounds for filing for divorce. An example is when you or your spouse can financially support your family but opts not to. 

2. Living separately for at least one year

In this context, you and your spouse have decided to live separately to lead separate lives. It doesn’t include a scenario where one of you works out of town but returns home (as in the case of military personnel deployed abroad).

Here, the one-year period must be continuous. If you spent at least one night together during the one year, you can’t use this ground.

3. Willfully absent for at least one year

This is similar to the second ground. The one-year period must be continuous and unbroken for this ground to count.

4. Having sexual relations with another

One of the hurtful things that you can do to one another is sleep with other people. But you can use that as a ground for divorce. 

This, however, is subject to an exception. For instance, if you consented or acquiesced to your spouse’s sexual relations with someone else, you can’t use this ground.

5. Extreme cruelty

Cruelty is not just physical. It can also be emotional. There is cruelty if you or your spouse feel it is unsafe or unhealthy to live together.

6. Habitual drunkenness

This ground also covers alcoholism, drug addiction, and substance abuse.

7. Fraud in contracting the marriage

If your spouse was untruthful at the time of marriage, you could use that as a ground for divorce. Fraud means your spouse hid critical information from you; had you known, you wouldn’t have married the latter.

8. Subsisting prior marriage

You cannot have a valid marriage if you or your spouse are married to another person.

Ohio law does not support the subsistence of two or more marriages in one person. The state punishes this as a misdemeanor.

9. Imprisonment

If your spouse is in prison, you can use this as a ground for divorce.

10. Divorce obtained in another state

If your spouse obtained a divorce in another state, you could state that as a ground for filing for divorce in Ohio.

Proving Your Allegations in Court

You can use one or more grounds for divorce to support your filing. 

If your spouse disagrees with the cited grounds, you must prove them in court. So it is best to have a lawyer to help you through the process.

Do You Need Help in Filing for Dissolution or Divorce

Get in touch with Next Page Mediation.

Click here to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.