What is a Marriage Dissolution?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Marriage dissolution is commonly referred to as divorce, and it means the legal termination of a marriage. This can occur for a variety of reasons, whether or not both spouses agree. The marriage is declared officially ended and both spouses are returned to single status, with a legally binding agreement that deals with issues such as child care and division of property. In many jurisdictions, marriage dissolution refers to any type of divorce, but some restrict use of the term to cases that are uncontested where neither party is at fault.

Although historically difficult to obtain in much of the world, marriage dissolution has become increasingly common. It is estimated that in the U.S., over 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce within the first 15 years. Marriages can end for a variety of reasons; some of the most common causes are financial disagreements, infidelity, or poor communication. The specific laws governing marriage dissolution vary by jurisdiction, but the basics are similar.

When the decision is made to end the marriage, spouses may be in accord or one may wish to remain married. When both spouses consent to dissolve their union, it's is considered uncontested. If only one spouse wants the marriage dissolution while the other desires to remain married, the divorce is considered to be contested. A contested divorce is typically much more complicated and takes a lot more time to resolve.


Even if the marriage dissolution is uncontested, there is still the issue of fault. No-fault divorce is the most common in many jurisdictions, where neither spouse is responsible for nor accused of breaking the marriage contract. This type of dissolution is frequently used even if only one person is to blame, because it is quicker and easier. If accusations of fault are made by one spouse against the other, one of the parties has to prove the other committed acts that made the marriage untenable, thereby extending the process.

Although many couples marry in religious ceremonies, marriage dissolution is generally a judicial process that returns those involved to single status so that the marriage is considered terminated in the eyes of the law. Typically each spouse will have legal representation, and an agreement will need to be reached about issues like child support and custody, division of assets, debts, alimony, and other related issues. These agreements are best handled outside court, but can be decided by a judge via court order if necessary. Issues of fault can affect this process, with the innocent party often receiving more favorable terms. For the marriage dissolution to be official and legally binding, it must be decreed by a judge or other legal authority.


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