We're adults....so we can do this the adult way. Right???
It's a common question when I first sit down with clients to discuss a potential divorce: What is a dissolution? The bigger question, though, then becomes, "Can we get one?" In a nutshell, a dissolution is a method to dissolve (or end) a marriage by agreement. In order to obtain a dissolution, the parties must not only agree that they want to end their marriage, but they must also agree to the details of property and debt division, and custody if children are involved.
I have many (MANY) clients who tell me straight out of the gates that they will not be able to get a dissolution. I often hear, "We can't even be in the same room, let alone have a discussion" or, a timeless favorite, "The only thing we can agree on is that we can't stand each other." Sarcasm aside, these clients identify from the outset that it would not be productive to attempt a dissolution. Then, there are clients who are unsure about whether or not dissolution is an option for them. To these clients, I explain that if there is a chance that they can work cooperatively to come to a full agreement, it may be for the better. A dissolution can be more cost and time effective than a divorce. Sometimes these clients will successfully obtain a dissolution, sometimes they'll eventually need to file for a divorce. Finally, there are the clients who insist to me that they WANT a dissolution, regardless of their (in)ability to communicate with their current spouse. These clients may twist and turn and spend many sleepless nights attempting in vain to construct a proposal that their spouse may find palatable. Sometimes, though, it simply cannot be. And, often, it is clear from the beginning that a dissolution cannot be successful.
So, then, to help you assess whether or not a dissolution may be worth a try, it is suggested that you ask yourself the following:
1) Are you on speaking terms with your spouse? Are you able to have a discussion, not simply exchange information necessary to make it from day to day (i.e. "Billy gets out of school at 3" or "The electric bill is overdue")?
If the parties are unable to have a meaningful discussion, a dissolution will not be successful. You will need to be able to communicate, to problem solve, and to work cooperatively to tie up all the loose ends of your joint financial life. This requires talking. And lots of it.
2) Does your spouse want to stay married? Do you?
If either party still wishes to stay married, a dissolution may not be the answer. Often, it will become clear that one party will never be satisfied with any proposed agreement (perhaps even an incredibly generous one), simply because that party doesn't want to be divorced. If one party wishes to remain married, the odds are that he or she will not be able to successfully negotiate a dissolution. There is no incentive for that party to agree to anything.....the longer it takes to come to an agreement......the longer the parties stay married.
3) Has there been an event in the marriage which has led to a culture of hostility?
It is safe to assume that if a couple is contemplating separation, their home life is less than happy. While this is the norm, there is a difference between an unhappy home life and a home life that is wrought with hostility. If either party feels that he or she has been wronged, taken advantage of, lied to, or embarrassed, that party may be unable to reach an agreement regarding financial or custodial aspects of the separation. Even with the best intentions, that party may simply be too distraught to negotiate cooperatively.
While the foregoing is by no means a comprehensive guide to determining whether or not a dissolution is right for you, it may provide some food for thought. It is important to remember that attempting a dissolution will only be cost and time efficient if a party is able to ultimately reach a full agreement. A failure to do so will require the eventual filing for a divorce. While it is admirable to attempt a dissolution, or as my clients say "be adults", often acknowledging that a dissolution simply isn't possible is the best way to be an adult when it comes to ending a marriage.
* The foregoing is merely the opinion of this attorney and in no way constitutes legal advice. For legal advice pertaining to your particular circumstances, please contact Bowling Law Offices at (937) 671-1511 to schedule your free consultation with Attorney Kate Bowling.