Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Divorce and a Dissolution?

Both a divorce and a dissolution result in a final court order that terminates the marriage and allocates all debts, assets, sets forth all support orders and provides the terms of the parenting arrangement. The difference is in the process of how you get to the end result. In a Dissolution the parties have worked out all issues and reached an agreement on all terms. The agreements are set forth in a separation agreement which is filed with the court with the initial Petition for Dissolution. One hearing is scheduled, the Merits hearing. In a Divorce the parties have not been able to work out an agreement and file various court required forms along with the initial Complaint for Divorce. An action for Divorce requires more court involvement through reports, scheduling conferences and hearings. Ultimately if the parties are not able to reach an agreement the court will issue orders on all matters.

Can I use a mediator instead of an attorney?

No. The roles of a mediator and an attorney are distinct and separate. A mediator does not represent either party or provide legal advice. Frequently a mediator may request the parties to seek legal counsel for clarification on issues in order to facilitate a resolution. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up the resolutions. It is for an attorney to put the agreement into proper form for filing with the court and to be sure that any mandatory language is included, as well as prepare any additional court required forms and pleadings.

What is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is an agreement between husband and wife that sets forth how all duties and obligations are to be separated or allocated when they live separate and apart. A separation agreement can be entered into before any filing of a complaint for divorce or any time after a filing of such a complaint. A separation agreement should include specifics on each spouses responsibility for debts and assets. It should clearly identify all bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, as well as all real estate, automobiles and credit card accounts. Further, if the parties have minor children the document needs to state what the parenting arrangement is going to be. The document must also address issues of child support and spousal support.

What needs to be decided in a parenting plan?

Parenting arrangements include more than simply the time allocation for the children with each parent. A complete parenting plan should include the following: A detailed week to week parenting schedule with specific times for drop off and pick up as well as location. A detailed holiday schedule for even and odd years with all dates and times for pickup and drop off. Extended parenting time or vacation time including the length of time, the provisions for notice to the other parent and to the children. Child support. Allocation of the annual tax exemption. Language for make up time in the case of emergencies. Provide each parent access to school and health records.