Dissolution of Marriage VS Divorce: What to Know

If you ask the average person on the street, every time two people end a marriage it’s a divorce. The term is the lingua franca we’ve adopted to describe the juicy celebrity tabloid splits between Kim and Kanye, Brad and Angie, and Brittany and Jason, but of those three? Only one is a real divorce. Brittany and Jason had their brief marriage annulled, and Brad and Angelina’s terminal act was a dissolution of marriage.

Curious stuff when the headlines all read “DIVORCED” below the worst pictures the paparazzi could scrounge up, right? 

As it turns out, the end of any given marriage can be quite nuanced. A divorce and a dissolution of marriage are two very different experiences even though the main outcome is the same. How a couple arrives at one or the other has a lot to do with why they’re splitting, how they feel about each other, and the assets they have to divide.

Are you getting divorced? Dissolved? We’re getting all of this resolved for you, because if you must go through the heartbreak and pain of an ending marriage, how you proceed could be the difference between a great deal of unnecessary suffering and an amicable plan for beginning your next phase of life. 

The Ties that Bind Us

Every marriage is as unique as the people involved, but they all have one important thing in common: a legal contract. You may think it’s a religious ceremony or a heartfelt commitment, but at the end of the day (and the marriage) the two of you are bound together by an agreement in law about what each of you is entitled to and protected from. 

A marriage contract can be adapted to say just about anything, but the most basic provision is usually joint and equal ownership of money and property. Once it’s in force, the only way to break it is with another legal action, and that’s why it’s not enough for your partner to shout “I divorce thee thricely!” and kick you out of the house. He might think you’re divorced but the law doesn’t, and it will protect you if he starts changing the locks. 

And that’s the devil in the details: how you terminate that contract is the difference between divorce and a dissolution of marriage. 


If you are married to a high-conflict person (or what’s known in the divorce mediation business as “a real piece of work”), then you’ve probably heard these words before: “You’ll never make it on your own. I own you.” “I’d rather give my money to a lawyer than give it to you” You can’t leave me!”

Well, guess what? Yes. You. Can.

Add whatever expletive you want to that too, because there is no power on earth or elsewhere in the universe that can compel you to stay married to someone in the United States of America if you’re determined to leave. That’s what “divorce” means in a courtroom. It’s a lawsuit one spouse files against the other to tear up the contract and get out of Dodge. 

Most divorces happen because couples can’t agree on how to divide assets and custody. In that case, for better or worse, a judge has to do it for you, and there’s an excellent chance you’re both going to be unhappy. They may give your spouse most of the money, sell the house, and hand you a nonsensical custody arrangement, but one thing is certain: they will end that marriage, even if they have to break it with a sledgehammer.

Ideally, a legit divorce can be avoided if cooler heads prevail, and that’s where a divorce mediator is going to be your best friend in the whole world. For a fraction of the time, money, and gut-wrenching agony a fully litigated divorce will extract from you, a mediator can walk you to a better outcome with a solution that makes sense for everyone. And that means a more amicable, financially stable future as you go your separate ways.

Dissolution of Marriage

If that mediator was able to talk you both down from the divorce ledge, congratulations! Your divorce just became a dissolution of marriage. 

Dissolution occurs when BOTH partners agree to end the marriage. If you can work out assets and custody on your own, you can save all the legal fees and hassle. All that’s left is to sign the paperwork and the marriage contract goes *poof*!

Dissolution is a far, far superior result than a divorce because it means you retain some common sense control over the things you’re both going to have to live with. For instance, if you have a beloved grandfather clock you both desperately want to keep, a judge might just decide the only solution is to sell it. Oops. Guess the kids aren’t inheriting that any more.

That’s the big problem with divorce. Most people who are breaking up have no idea how the law works, why it works, and what will happen if things break down. Even the most intractable spouse can be brought to the table when an expert explains what they’re in for from a judge, and that’s why divorce mediation is such a popular option. That neutral voice will sketch up exactly how much better things will be if you make your final act one of teamwork and respect. 

De-escalate With Better Divorce Academy

My name is Paulette Rigo, and I started Better Divorce Academy after I went through an 8.5-year, fully litigated divorce and appeal with a high-conflict spouse that left me broken and financially shattered. 

A dissolution of marriage was not in the cards for me, but it can be for you. I want to help you avoid all the mistakes, trauma, and fear that an ugly divorce can bring, and get you through to the other side happier, healthier, and empowered to find your brightest future on your new journey. 

Breathe. Breathe with me. You’re not alone.

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