If your marriage is ending and you’re searching for information on how to legally end it, you’re in the right place. The dissolution of marriage is the legal process to terminate a marriage. Here’s a quick overview to start:

  • Dissolution of marriage is a formal process to end a legally recognized union.
  • Ways to dissolve a marriage include divorce and annulment.
  • The procedure involves filing documents, serving papers, and sometimes going to court.

The goal of this guide is to help you through the complexities of dissolving your marriage, ensuring you understand each step and feel prepared for what lies ahead. Whether you opt for a collaborative divorce, mediated divorce, or are considering an annulment, this guide covers all aspects in clear, straightforward language.

Basic steps of marriage dissolution - dissolution of marriage infographic roadmap-5-steps

Now, let’s dig deeper into understanding the dissolution of marriage in more detail.

Understanding Dissolution of Marriage

Legal Separation vs. Dissolution

When a couple decides they can no longer live together, they have a few options: legal separation or dissolution of marriage.

Legal separation allows a couple to live apart without ending the marriage. This can be a good choice for those who want to maintain certain benefits, like health insurance or tax advantages, or for religious reasons. The couple remains legally married, but the court can still divide property and determine custody and support.

Dissolution of marriage, on the other hand, is the legal end of a marriage. This process involves dividing assets, determining child custody, and other legal matters. Once finalized, both individuals are free to remarry.

No-Fault Divorce

In many states, including California and Florida, dissolution of marriage follows a no-fault approach. This means neither spouse has to prove the other did something wrong to end the marriage. Instead, they simply need to show that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” or cite “irreconcilable differences.”

California was a pioneer in adopting this no-fault approach back in 1970. Under the California Family Code Section 2310, the grounds for dissolution are either irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity.

Florida also follows a no-fault system. The petitioner must prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that a spouse is mentally incapacitated.

Terminating Marital Status

The ultimate goal of dissolution of marriage is to terminate the marital status of both parties. This involves several key steps:

  1. Filing a Petition: One spouse (the petitioner) must file a petition for dissolution in the appropriate court.

  2. Serving the Other Spouse: The petition must be served to the other spouse (the respondent), who then has a chance to respond.

  3. Financial Disclosures: Both parties must provide full financial disclosures, detailing income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.

  4. Negotiation and Mediation: Couples often try to settle disputes through negotiation or mediation, which can be less costly and stressful than going to trial.

  5. Trial and Final Judgment: If an agreement can’t be reached, the case goes to trial. A judge then makes decisions on unresolved issues and issues a final judgment.

Once the court issues a final judgment, the marriage is officially dissolved, and both parties’ marital status is terminated. They are legally single and free to remarry if they choose.

Understanding these basics sets the stage for navigating the dissolution process. Next, we’ll explore the specific steps you need to take to file for a dissolution of marriage.

Steps to File for Dissolution of Marriage

Filing a Petition

The first step in the dissolution of marriage process is filing a petition. The spouse initiating the process is called the petitioner. This petition outlines the reasons for the dissolution and includes requests for property division, child custody, and spousal support. Each state has specific forms and requirements, so check your local court’s website for the correct documents. For instance, in Florida, you would use the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Form 12.901(a)).

Financial Disclosures

Both spouses must provide complete financial disclosures. This involves filling out forms that detail income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Full transparency is crucial to ensure fair decisions regarding property division and support. For example, in Florida, you would use the Financial Affidavit (Form 12.902(b) or 12.902(c)).

Serving the Other Spouse

After filing the petition, the next step is serving the other spouse with the divorce papers. This process, known as “service of process,” must be done by a third party, such as a process server or sheriff. The respondent then has a specified period (usually 20-30 days) to respond to the petition. Failure to respond can lead to a default judgment.

Negotiation and Mediation

Once the petition has been served, the spouses can negotiate the terms of the dissolution. This can involve direct negotiations or mediation with a neutral third party. Mediation can help resolve disputes over property division, child custody, and support. According to Forbes, most divorces settle before reaching trial, often through these negotiations.

Trial and Final Judgment

If negotiations and mediation fail, the case goes to trial. During the trial, both parties present evidence and testimony regarding unresolved issues. The judge then makes final decisions on matters like property division, child custody, and support. Once the judge issues a final judgment, the marriage is officially dissolved. A certificate of dissolution is issued, similar to a marriage certificate, providing legal proof of the termination.

Understanding these steps can help you navigate the dissolution process more smoothly. Next, we’ll delve into the key considerations you need to keep in mind during a dissolution of marriage.

Key Considerations in Dissolution of Marriage

Property Division

Dividing property can be one of the most challenging parts of a dissolution of marriage. Each state has its own rules. For example, Florida follows “equitable distribution,” which means assets and debts are divided fairly but not necessarily equally.

Key Points:
Identify Marital Property: Anything acquired during the marriage is typically considered marital property, including homes, cars, and bank accounts.
Separate Property: Assets owned before the marriage or received as gifts or inheritances usually remain with the original owner.
Valuation: Both parties must disclose all assets and debts. Accurate valuation is crucial for fair distribution.

Parenting and Support

If you have children, their well-being is a top priority during a dissolution of marriage. Courts focus on creating a stable environment for the children.

Custody Arrangements:
Physical Custody: Determines where the children will live.
Legal Custody: Involves decision-making rights about the child’s upbringing, including education and healthcare.

Child Support:
– Calculated based on both parents’ incomes, the number of children, and other relevant factors like health insurance and daycare costs.

Residency Requirements

Before filing for a dissolution of marriage, you must meet specific residency requirements. These vary by state. For example, in Florida, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for six months before filing.

Grounds for Dissolution

Most states, including Florida, allow for “no-fault” divorces. This means you don’t have to prove wrongdoing by your spouse. You simply state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Two Grounds in Florida:
1. Irretrievably Broken: The most common reason, meaning the marriage can’t be fixed.
2. Mental Incapacity: Must be proven by a court and determined at least three years before filing.

Financial Implications

Divorce can have significant financial consequences. Understanding these can help you prepare better.

Temporary or Permanent: Depending on factors like the length of the marriage and each spouse’s financial situation.
Types: Can include rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, durational, or permanent alimony.

Tax Considerations:
Filing Status: Changes post-divorce, which can impact your tax returns.
Alimony Payments: These are no longer tax-deductible for the payer or taxable for the recipient as of the 2018 tax reforms.

Retirement Plans:
Division: Retirement accounts like 401(k)s and pensions may be divided. This often requires a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).

Understanding these key considerations can help you navigate the complexities of a dissolution of marriage more effectively. Next, we’ll explore how to cope with the emotional and legal challenges you might face during this process.

Navigating the Emotional and Legal Complexities

Going through a dissolution of marriage is tough. It’s not just about legal papers and courtrooms. It’s also about dealing with emotions and finding ways to cope. Here are some key points to help you through this challenging time.

Support Networks

Having a strong support network is crucial. Friends and family can provide emotional support. They can listen when you need to talk and offer practical help when things get overwhelming.

Tip: Join a support group for people going through divorce. Sharing experiences with others who understand can be very comforting.

Coping Strategies

Coping with the end of a marriage involves managing stress and taking care of your mental health. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Counseling: Seeing a therapist can provide a safe space to express your feelings. Therapists can also teach you coping techniques.

  • Healthy Activities: Exercise, hobbies, and spending time outdoors can boost your mood and reduce stress.

  • Mindfulness: Practices like meditation and yoga can help you stay calm and focused.

Mindfulness and meditation - dissolution of marriage

Positive Activities

Engaging in positive activities can make a big difference. Here are some ideas:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can improve your mood and help you stay healthy.

  • Hobbies: Take up a new hobby or revisit an old one. This can be a great way to distract yourself and find joy.

  • Socializing: Spend time with friends and family. Social interactions can help you feel connected and supported.

Legal Representation

Having a good lawyer is essential. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and protect your rights. Here’s what to consider:

  • Experience: Choose a lawyer who specializes in family law and has experience with divorce cases.

  • Communication: Make sure your lawyer listens to you and explains things clearly.

  • Support: A good lawyer not only provides legal advice but also offers emotional support and reassurance.

Quote: “A seasoned family lawyer can provide valuable advice tailored to your specific circumstances,” says Cynthia Hernandez.

Legal support - dissolution of marriage

Navigating these emotional and legal complexities is challenging, but with the right support and strategies, you can get through it. Next, let’s address some frequently asked questions about the dissolution of marriage.

FAQs on Dissolution of Marriage

What is the first thing to do when separating?

The first step in separating is to communicate with your spouse about your decision. This can be a difficult conversation, but it sets the stage for everything that follows. After that, consider these initial steps:

  1. Consult a Lawyer: Speak with a family law attorney to understand your rights and obligations.
  2. Gather Financial Documents: Collect all financial records, including bank statements, tax returns, and property deeds.
  3. Plan Your Living Arrangements: Decide where you will live during the separation.
  4. Consider Child Custody: If you have children, think about temporary custody and visitation arrangements.

Fact: In Ohio, you must be a resident for at least six months before filing for dissolution. Source

What are the requirements for a dissolution in Ohio?

To file for a dissolution of marriage in Ohio, you need to meet specific criteria:

  • Residency: Either you or your spouse must have lived in Ohio for at least six months.
  • Agreement: Both parties must agree on all aspects, including property division, child custody, and support.
  • Documents: You must file a petition for dissolution, a waiver of service of process, and a separation agreement. If you have minor children, additional forms are required.

Timeline: A hearing is scheduled between 30 and 90 days after filing. Both parties must attend and present their separation agreement. Source

How do you gracefully divorce?

Divorcing gracefully means handling the process with dignity and respect. Here are some tips:

  1. Communicate Openly: Keep lines of communication open with your spouse to avoid misunderstandings.
  2. Seek Mediation: Mediation can help resolve disputes amicably without going to trial.
  3. Prioritize Children: Focus on the well-being of your children and maintain a positive co-parenting relationship.
  4. Stay Organized: Keep all documents and communications organized to reduce stress.
  5. Take Care of Yourself: Engage in positive activities and seek emotional support from friends, family, or a therapist.

Quote: “Most divorces do settle, even if it is days before a trial,” notes a family law expert. This highlights the importance of negotiation and mediation. Source

Navigating the dissolution of marriage can be complex, but understanding these FAQs can help you start the process on the right foot. Next, let’s look at some more detailed considerations in the dissolution process.


At Cynthia Hernandez Law, we understand that the dissolution of marriage is a significant and emotional journey. Our goal is to make this transition as smooth and dignified as possible for you.

Why Choose Cynthia Hernandez Law?

1. Flat-Fee Structure:
We believe in transparent pricing. Our flat-fee structure ensures that you know exactly what to expect financially. This eliminates the stress of unexpected legal bills, allowing you to focus on moving forward.

2. Compassionate Legal Representation:
Divorce is not just a legal process; it’s an emotional one too. Our team provides not only legal expertise but also the compassionate support you need during this challenging time. We handle each case with care and understanding, ensuring that your emotional well-being is also a priority.

3. Expertise and Experience:
With over 15 years of experience, we navigate the complexities of Florida divorce laws with precision. Whether it’s a military divorce, collaborative divorce, or uncontested divorce, we tailor our approach to meet your specific needs and goals.

Moving Forward

Choosing the right legal partner is crucial. At Cynthia Hernandez Law, we are committed to advocating for your future happiness and stability. Our team is here to provide the clarity and support needed to move forward confidently and positively.

For those considering or starting the divorce process, you’re not alone. With the right guidance and support, this transition can lead to new beginnings and opportunities. Learn more about how we can help by visiting our Uncontested Divorce service page.

Thank you for trusting Cynthia Hernandez Law to be part of your journey. We are here to support you every step of the way, ensuring that your path to a new beginning is as smooth and dignified as possible.