What is a Dissolution Petition?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 May 2019
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A dissolution petition is a legal document used to request a divorce. Usually the first step in the legal process of divorce, this document contains important information about the marriage and is filed with the court. Another common term for a dissolution petition is divorce papers.

Even if a decision to divorce is already settled on a personal level, it must be legalized before the parties can truly go separate ways. It is important to remember that marriage is recognized by the law and can affect health benefit issues, census information, and tax status. Dissolving a marriage must be done legally to ensure that tax and other records are accurate.

A dissolution petition may vary somewhat from region to region, but it almost always requires basic data on the family undergoing the divorce. Basic requirements include name and address, residency information, date of the marriage, and the declaration of both adult children and dependents. If this information is not readily available, such as if one spouse has abandoned his or her family and left no contact information, another process called divorce by publication can be enacted. This process requires the court and plaintiff to perform due diligence in searching for the whereabouts of the missing spouse, but allows a divorce by default if no response is made to efforts.


Grounds for divorce is a tricky section of the dissolution petition that may have very different requirements in different regions. Many areas have adopted a policy of “no fault” divorce, which means that the only choice for divorce grounds is mental incompetency or irreconcilable differences. In regions that have fault laws, a plaintiff may be able to sue for damages due to provable adultery or abuse.

Another major portion of many dissolution petition forms is the distribution of property and custody rights. To save money, time, and angst for all involved, most experts recommend that couples make an extraordinary effort to determine a fair division of rights and responsibilities before filing for divorce. In some areas, divorcing couples can attach a dual-signed summary of their equable division, which the court can simply approve if it appears fair. If the couple cannot reach an agreement on admittedly complicated issues of property, custody, child or spousal support, and visitation rights, the court can make that determination.

A dissolution petition is only the first step of a divorce; it is what allows the court to notify both partners of the ongoing divorce process and determine if a trial will be needed to secure custody or property agreements. Filing a dissolution petition does not mean a couple is divorced. In many areas, divorces have a mandatory minimum time period between the filing of all documents and the judgment, in case couples decide to work out marital problems and remain married.



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