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What is the Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage?

The difference between divorce and dissolution of marriage is that divorce requires proof of fault, and dissolution of marriage does not.

Marriages in Florida used to be ended by filing for “divorce.” Today marriages are dissolved by filing a petition for “dissolution of marriage.”

Historically, “divorce” in Florida referred to the fault-based system for ending marriages that required a party to show misconduct, or fault, by the other. Misconduct might include adultery, domestic violence, substance abuse, or other reasons. The resolution of property and children’s issues in the fault-based system was often governed by who was at fault, or responsible, for ending the marriage. See e.g. Coltea v. Coltea, 856 So.2d 1047 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003).

Today Florida operates under a system which generally makes fault irrelevant, hence the term “no-fault divorce.” Under the current dissolution of marriage rubric, a party just has to testify as to “irreconcilable differences” to be granted a divorce.

The legislative intent underlying Florida’s no-fault divorce law is stated in the “Purposes” section of the dissolution of marriage statute.  The stated purpose of the no-fault law is to promote the amicable settlement of marital disputes and mitigation of potential harm to the spouses and children caused by the process of legal dissolution of the marriage. See F.S. 61.001.

Additional rationale for this policy is to avoid subjecting the judiciary to make factual findings where proof is murky; to reduce the number of protracted, high conflict cases that stretch judicial resources; to reduce the negative impact on children; and to reduce the expense that comes with litigation so that marital resources can be distributed to the parties and put to better use.

Most people still use the terms “divorce” and “dissolution of marriage” interchangeably. My opinion is there is nothing wrong with that. After all, I even refer to myself as an Orlando divorce attorney- as opposed to an Orlando dissolution of marriage attorney.

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