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What's the Difference? Divorce v. Summary Dissolution

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 15, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Many people get a divorce because they feel they've run out of options in their marriage. As it turns out, there are options for the kind of divorce you can get.

One of those options is known as a summary dissolution. While a summary dissolution has some advantages over a traditional divorce, it's not for everyone. Here are the differences between a divorce and summary dissolution.

Break-up Benefits

Both a divorce and a summary dissolution will legally end your marriage. However, the summary dissolution process is often simpler and quicker than a traditional divorce. This is because there are fewer court filings and written agreements, less paperwork for both parties, and also fewer court appearances. Some states only require parties to file a petition for dissolution with the court.

Additionally, some states require that parties filing for dissolution have no contested issues in the divorce (like arguments over property or debt division), so fewer negotiations also lead to a quicker resolution.

Eligibility Essentials

Despite the convenience of a summary dissolution, not all couples will qualify. The legal requirements may vary from state to state, but generally in order to be eligible for a summary dissolution, a separating couple may not:

  • Be married for too long, normally 5 years or less;
  • Have any shared minor children;
  • Have any significant "real property" interests, like a home or large land holdings;
  • Have more than a certain amount of marital property, normally less than $25,000 or $35,000;
  • Claim any right to spousal support following the separation.

If you and your soon-to-be ex don't meet these requirements, you will probably need to file for divorce instead.

Potential Pitfalls

As in most situations when a marriage ends, the options and experience are determined by the level of acrimony between the parties. Obviously, an uncontested divorce is ideal for everyone involved. And that is especially true for summary dissolutions -- fights over property and other issues may preclude you from taking advantage of a relatively simple separation system.

If you would like to learn how to file for summary dissolution, or are wondering if it's right for your separation, you may want to talk to an experienced divorce attorney in your area.

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