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What’s the Difference Between Divorce, Dissolution, and Legal Separation?

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If You Are Having Marital Issues, What Are Your Legal Options?

Divorce, dissolution, and legal separation are all terms used to describe the end of a marriage. But you should be aware of important distinctions between each process before deciding what route to take. Each of these solutions can be emotionally turbulent, so knowing the facts and ensuring you are fully informed before making your choice is vital. Our experienced legal team can help make sure that your interests are protected no matter your decision. We can explain the pros and cons and ensure that you come away from the process with your rights secure. Call Khosroabadi & Hill at (858) 240-2093 to book a consultation with our knowledgeable team of lawyers to learn more about your options.

How Does Dissolution Work?

If you qualify, a summary dissolution can be a faster, easier, and less costly way to end a marriage than a divorce. This process does not require any court appearances or hearings and can be completed without the help of an attorney. The couple must agree on all issues related to their separation, such as the division of assets and child custody arrangements. Both parties must sign a dissolution agreement that outlines their decisions before filing with the court for final approval.

Who Can Qualify for a Summary Dissolution in California?

California has rules regarding who can and cannot use the summary dissolution process. Generally, it is for married couples or domestic partners who have not been together for very long and have few financial entanglements. To qualify for a summary dissolution, you must meet all the following guidelines:

  • Have been married within the last five years
  • Have no minor children together and no current pregnancy
  • Do not own or lease your home, land, or another building
  • Have less than $6,000 in combined debt, excluding car loans
  • Have less than $47,000 in property together and separately, excluding vehicles
  • Can come to a written agreement on the terms of the divorce, including the division of assets and debts
  • Both agree to waive spousal support

If you do not meet all of these requirements, you can still file for a regular divorce instead of a dissolution. Be aware that it takes six months from the time the court approves your dissolution agreement for it to become final. If you change your mind about the dissolution during this period, you may file a petition to revoke your case. If you still wish to end your marriage at this point, you may file for divorce.

What is Divorce?

The results of a divorce and a dissolution are the same: your marriage is formally ended, and you are legally free to remarry. However, a divorce involves more steps than a summary dissolution and is more appropriate for couples with more complex financial and family situations. In California, both parties do not need to agree to a divorce for it to proceed. As long as one spouse cites irreconcilable differences in the marriage, that is sufficient grounds for divorce. Because California is a “no-fault” divorce state, you do not have to prove that either party did anything wrong to qualify for a divorce.

What is the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce. You can present your agreement to the court for approval, and the divorce will be finalized after a six-month waiting period. However, if you and your ex cannot agree on some or all of the aspects of the divorce, then it is known as a contested divorce, and the court will need to get involved in solving the disagreements.

During the divorce litigation process, the court will review several issues, including alimony payments, child custody arrangements, division of assets and debts between both parties and more. After considering all relevant factors, the court will make a final judgment in your case. If one spouse refuses to participate in the legal process, it will not stop the divorce from happening. It simply prevents the uncooperative party from having a say in the outcome of the proceedings.

What is a Legal Separation?

Legal separation is similar to a divorce in that it allows couples to make crucial decisions regarding issues like alimony payments, division of property and debts, and child custody arrangements. The court will review the case and issue a court order outlining each party’s responsibilities. However, the marriage itself is not terminated in a legal separation. The agreement simply separates your lives, including your financial responsibilities and parenting duties, but leaves you legally married.

Legal separation is used for many reasons, but it can be useful if a couple wants to:

  • Work toward reconciliation
  • Retain certain advantages of staying legally married, such as tax breaks and insurance coverage
  • Create space for themselves, but maintain a relationship for their minor children

Do Any Other Options Exist for Ending a Marriage?

Most couples will legally end their marriages through a divorce or summary dissolution. However, one other legal option is available: annulment. An annulment voids the marriage and legally makes it as if it never existed. The legal annulment of a marriage should not be confused with a religious annulment. Some faiths may require religious annulments for the individuals involved to remarry, but they do not have a legal effect.

Legal annulments are rarely used because they are only an option if the marriage is not valid in the first place. Some of the common reasons for annulment include:

  • Bigamy (when one spouse was still legally married to another person at the time of the marriage)
  • Fraud
  • Coercion or force
  • Underage marriage

What Can a Family Law Attorney Do for You?

No matter what process you choose to end your marriage, it is crucial to seek professional guidance from an experienced family law attorney who can help navigate the complexities of your situation. At Khosroabadi & Hill, our team of dedicated attorneys has years of experience assisting clients with divorce, dissolution, and legal separation proceedings. Contact us today at (858) 240-2093 for more information on how we can help you through this challenging time.

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