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Understanding the Difference between Divorce, Dissolution, and Legal Separation

Are you exploring the possibility of ending your current marriage? If so, then you have several avenues for pursuing your goal.

You can file for divorce, dissolution, or legal separation depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, such as how much you can agree upon with your partner, how emotionally invested you are in the marriage, and how complicated your situation is.

The primary objective here is to ensure that you make the best decision for yourself and your family. If you have children, you need to consider their needs, too. With that said, let’s look at each option so that you can decide which one is right for you.


In legal terms, a divorce is simply a dissolution of marriage, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

Basically, when you file for divorce, you are requesting a family court to grant you permission to dissolve your partnership and end all legal bonds you have with your spouse. It means that you and your partner must be legally married to pursue divorce.

The critical component of divorce is fault. That is, one person must be blamed for the deterioration of the relationship. There are several grounds for divorce, but the most common ones include adultery, desertion, domestic violence, and mental illness.

So, if you want to file for divorce, you need to prove that your spouse is at fault. It’s worth noting that some states require couples to live apart for a certain period of time before they can file for divorce.

In most states, divorces are final, and once the judgment has been issued, the involved parties can’t remarry in the future. If you are seeking a divorce, you can choose partial, full, or sole representation and stand a chance to benefit from court determinations for the complicated decisions.

If the involved parties have kids or many assets and can’t seem to agree on anything, then they may need to pursue litigation.


A dissolution is different from a divorce in that it doesn’t require one party to be at fault. It’s an amicable way of ending the marriage, and usually, both parties come to an agreement outside of court. Once they have hammered out the details, they present their agreement to a judge, who then reviews it to ensure it’s fair and equitable.

If the judge approves the agreement, he/she will sign it to make it legally binding. Similar to a divorce, once a dissolution is finalized, the involved parties can’t remarry in the future.

Dissolution is often seen as a cheaper and faster way to end a marriage, but it’s not always the best option.

First, both parties must be in complete agreement about everything, and that can be hard to achieve, especially if there are kids involved.

Second, even though a dissolution doesn’t require one party to be at fault, it can still get pretty ugly if both sides can’t agree on anything.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is different from both divorce and dissolution in that it doesn’t end the marriage. Instead, it gives the couple a chance to live apart and work on their relationship. It’s often seen as a way to trial a divorce without actually getting one.

In a legal separation, the court will issue an order that spells out the rights and responsibilities of each party. Just like in a divorce, the court can make determinations about child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property, and division of debt.

One of the key benefits of a legal separation is that it gives the couple a chance to work on their relationship without actually getting a divorce. If they can work out their differences, they can go back to living together as husband and wife. However, if they can’t work things out, then they can pursue a divorce.


An annulment is a legal procedure that voids a marriage. In other words, it’s as if the marriage never happened.

Annulments are fairly rare, and they’re usually only granted in specific circumstances, such as if one party was under the age of 18, if the marriage was never consummated, or if one party was already married to someone else.

If you want to get an annulment, you need to prove that your marriage meets one of the specific grounds for annulment.

Once the annulment is granted, it’s as if the marriage never happened, and the involved parties can remarry in the future.

Divorce vs. Dissolution vs. Legal Separation: Which One Is Right for You?

When it comes to ending a marriage, you can use any of the above options depending on the situation. Each option has its own pros and cons you need to understand before deciding.

If you want to end your marriage quickly and amicably, dissolution may be the best option. However, if you can’t agree on anything, divorce or legal separation may be the only way to go.

It’s also important to understand that you can’t go back and change your mind once a divorce is finalized.

So, if you’re not sure if you’re ready for a divorce, then legal separation may be the best option as it gives you a chance to trial the divorce without actually going through with it.


When it comes to the legal process of ending a marriage, there are three main options: divorce, dissolution, and legal separation. Though they all have the same goal: to legally end a marriage, there are some critical differences between them that you should know before deciding.

Make sure you consult with a lawyer to understand the specific laws in your state and to learn which option is best for you.


This article is written by Naphtal. He is the brand manager at Legal Giant and a highly experienced content writer. Legal Giant is a leading lawyer referral site with clients all over the U.S. When Naphtal is not working, he enjoys spending time with his son and exploring nature.


    • 1 year ago (Edit)

    […] matters involving family-related conflicts. These family courts handle disputes about marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship, and the couples’ […]

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