Some states have special simplified dissolution of marriage procedures that are available in certain situations. This may also be called a summary dissolution. While each state with such a procedure has its own requirements, the following information will give you a good idea of how these simplified procedures work, as well as the advantages of simplified dissolution vs. dissolution of marriage in a traditional case.
What Is a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage?
A simplified dissolution of marriage is a special procedure that requires fewer forms and takes less time to complete than a regular dissolution of marriage. For example, in a simplified dissolution of marriage, income and other financial disclosure forms may not be required.
Each state that offers a simplified procedure has its own requirements that must be met. These requirements typically fall into one of the following categories, although not all are required in every state:
- Cooperation. Both parties must sign the required forms, both parties may be required to go to the courthouse to sign and file the forms, and both parties may need to attend the final court hearing. Both parties also may be required to read a brochure about the simplified procedure, and sign a form verifying they read it.
- Grounds for divorce. There may be a requirement that only the state's no-fault grounds for divorce can be used.
- Length of marriage. Some states only allow the simplified procedure for relatively short-term marriages. For example, California only allows a simplified dissolution if the parties have been married for no more than five years. In Oregon, the limit is 10 years.
- Property and debts. There may be a requirement that no property or debts need to be divided, or that the amount of property and debt does not exceed a certain amount. If there is property or debt, there must be a written agreement as to the division of property and debts.
- Alimony. Both parties are typically required to waive their right to alimony.
- Children. In most states, the simplified dissolution procedure cannot be used if there are any minor or dependent children, or if the wife is pregnant. If there is a simplified procedure with children, the parties need to have a written agreement as to custody, visitation, and child support.
- Waiver of rights. Both parties may be required to waive certain rights, such as the right to request a jury trial, the right to request a new trial, and the right to appeal.
If a simplified dissolution procedure is available in your state, there may be other requirements. For example, Illinois limits its joint simplified procedure to people with certain maximum incomes, which makes the procedure only available to those with quite low incomes. Your local court clerk's office should be able to tell you if a simplified procedure is available, and to provide information about its requirements.
Although the simplified dissolution of marriage forms will vary from state to state, they will typically include the following types:
- Petition for simplified dissolution of marriage. This is the basic form that opens the case and asks the court to grant a dissolution under the simplified procedure.
- Marital settlement agreement for simplified dissolution of marriage. This form sets forth the agreement of you and your spouse.
- Final judgment of simplified dissolution of marriage. This is the form the judge will sign to officially dissolve your marriage and approve your marital settlement agreement.
Each state has its own forms tailored to its simplified dissolution procedure, which should be available from the local court clerk.
While the exact procedures will vary by state, a simplified dissolution generally involves the following four steps:
- Prepare the simplified dissolution of marriage required documents. This involves filling in all of the required information, and having you and your spouse sign the forms. The forms are usually signed in the presence of a notary public or court clerk.
- File the completed documents with the court clerk. Both you and your spouse may need to go to the clerk's office to file the forms, and you may be able to sign them before the clerk.
- Obtain a hearing date. The court clerk may be able to schedule a date, or you may need to arrange this with the administrative staff of the judge assigned to your case.
- Attend a simplified dissolution of marriage hearing.
Some degree of simplified procedure has been available for a number of years in the following states: Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia. In Hawaii, there is not a specific, separate procedure, but the law allows for an uncontested divorce to be completed without a court hearing if both parties sign certain affidavits.
Check with the court clerk in your county to find out if there are simplified dissolution procedures that may be available to you. For more assistance with your divorce or dissolution of marriage, in any state, you also may want to consult with an online service provider that can help you navigate both the forms and the process.