A: There is no law that forces you to end your marriage in a certain way. You can end as partners or as adversaries, fighting in court or agreeing in court, breaking the bank or limiting your emotional and financial damage. And at any time, you can change your mind.
Dissolution is cooperative. It is the legal way of agreeing on all issues and moving on. It is completely private and in your control, but for the final judgment which is part of the public court record.
- Procedure: First, a written separation agreement outlining mutual understanding on property, support, and parenting responsibilities. Second, a petition for dissolution, which is a request that the court legally end the marriage in accordance with your separation agreement. You may have to attend a hearing, but in most cases it is not necessary.
Divorce is the when the parties are not in agreement on one or more issues. A divorce requires "grounds for a divorce" (see post on divorce). Usually, if you file and your spouse does not respond within twenty-eight days of being served with formal legal notification, your divorce will generally be considered uncontested. The petitioner will then have to apply to the court for the divorce to proceed and a hearing for the decree nisi will be set. In general, divorce means that the partners have issues they have so far been unable to resolve. It does not necessarily mean that you will be antagonists. There are many other possibilities:
- You may
choose a collaborative divorce, where both parties and their attorneys
sit down to resolve issues together, privately and outside the
courtroom. You and your former spouse decide on support, property
division, and parenting choices in an atmosphere respectful of
For problems that resist a collaborative solution, there are different forms of negotiation, professional mediation or arbitration to resolve difficult issues without going to court. For many matters, the least desirable choice is litigation.
Annulment is a legal procedure for establishing that a marriage was never valid. The length of the marriage isn’t important. There are seven grounds for an annulment:
- at least one party was underage;
- the parties have a close blood relationship;
- a party was still legally married at the time of the current marriage;
- one party was unable to consummate the marriage (the first instance of sexual intercourse after the wedding);
- one spouse lacked the mental capacity to enter into a marriage contract;
- one person married under duress or by force;
- one person entered into marriage fraudulently, concealing such things as criminal history, sexually transmitted diseases or impotence
All requests to end a marriage are done through the Family Courts. Information for them can be found in previous posts concerning family issues.