If you are at the beginning stages of divorce, then you may have heard the term ‘dissolution of marriage,’ and wonder what it means to dissolve a marriage.

In California, the legal term for a divorce is a dissolution meaning the formal, legal ending of a marriage by the court.

Frustrated couple, fight and conflict in divorce, argument or disagreement wondering if they should dissolve a marriage

To dissolve a marriage, there are certain legal steps that you are required to take. First and foremost, the petition must be filed with the court requesting a dissolution (divorce) of marriage. One person is the petitioner, and they will be the ones that sign the initial petition, while the other person is considered the respondent.

The initial petition asks for basic information including full names, current addresses, date of marriage, date of separation and the child(ren)’s information (if applicable).

Once the petition is filed, then the other person needs to be served with the petition and summons. This can be done in person, or via mail. Most of the time in mediation we serve the respondent through the mail. Then, the respondent can choose to file a response – which in mediation we don’t always do, since the parties are choosing to work together. From there, to dissolve the marriage, both parties must complete their financial disclosures which means disclosing all their assets, debts, income, and expenses.

In California, to dissolve the marriage you must do your financial disclosures, no matter what process you go through. This applies to all dissolutions, even if you chose to dissolve the marriage on your own. From there it depends on whether you are in litigation, mediation, or even collaborative divorce, but the parties need to reach agreements on all the issues.

These issues can be broken down into a few main areas including:

  • Parenting Plan (if there are children)
  • Division of Property (assets and debts) and
  • Child and/or Spousal Support.

Once the parties have reached agreements, or if they’re in litigation, the judge has made orders then the agreements/orders need to be memorialized into a stipulation or settlement agreement or findings and order after hearing.  In mediation, we always complete a settlement agreement that lays out the agreed upon items. Both parties review, sign and it gets filed with the court. Once it is filed with the court and signed by the judge, then it would dissolve the marriage.

After you dissolve a marriage, you are no longer legally married to your spouse, and either of you are free to remarry. Additionally, you would each file your taxes separately for the year in which you were divorced. For example, if your divorce was final 1/5/24, then for 2024, you would file taxes separately – but for 2023 you would still file jointly (or married filing separately).

If you are looking to dissolve your marriage and are interested in learning more about mediation, reach out to us for more information.

by: Amanda Singer, Esq., MDR, CDFA®

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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