Eligibility for "Summary" Divorce / Dissolution
For divorcing couples who meet certain eligibility requirements in their state (usually must have no children and minimal property/assets), a streamlined divorce process called “summary” or "simple" divorce (or dissolution) may be an option. Following is a discussion of the advantages of the summary divorce process and the typical eligibility requirements couples must meet in order to take advantage of summary divorce.
Summary Divorce vs. Traditional Divorce
The summary divorce or dissolution process is a more simplified (and usually faster) method of legally ending a marriage. Specifically, when compared to the formal divorce process, summary divorce/dissolution will almost always involve:
- Less paperwork (i.e. court filings and written agreements);
- Fewer court appearances - some states require only submission of certain documents to the court, including a completed "petition for divorce/dissolution" signed by both parties; and
- Less time devoted to back-and-forth negotiations, as most states require no dispute (or early resolution) in matters such as property division.
Eligibility Requirements for Summary Divorce
Most states offer some form of summary divorce to couples meeting certain eligibility standards. Though these requirements will vary from state to state, they typically include:
- The couple were married for a relatively short time (usually 5 years or less);
- The couple has no minor children (natural or adopted);
- The couple does not have any significant "real property" interests (i.e. does not own or mortgage a home);
- Total value of marital property is less than a certain amount (usually between $25,000 and $35,000, and not including the value of motor vehicles);
- Total value of either spouse's separate property is less than a certain amount (may be same threshold as with total marital property, above); and
- Both spouses give up any right to spousal support.
In some states, even if a couple does have children and/or significant marital assets (property, bank accounts, stocks, etc.), the couple may still be able to take advantage of the summary divorce/dissolution process if, as part of the divorce filings, they submit written proof to the court that they have resolved key issues like child custody and child support. For example, a couple seeking a summary dissolution may reach an agreement in writing on an acceptable property division, promise to give up any right to spousal support, and agree on a set sum for child support. The couple would submit these written agreements as part of the summary divorce petition.
Filing for Summary Divorce
To get an idea of what a summary divorce court filing (often called a "petition") looks like, click here to view a sample Joint Petition for Simplified Divorce. You can also click on the links below, which will take you to a few state-specific samples of blank-form summary divorce decrees:
- California: Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage [PDF] (from the California Courts)
- Minnesota: Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage [PDF] (from the Minnesota Judicial Branch)
- Nebraska: Decree of Dissolution of Marriage [PDF] (from the Nebraska Judicial Branch)
Divorce proceedings, even simplified ones, can be a difficult undertaking, emotionally and legally. You may find a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney could ease the process. If you’d like more general information on this topic you can find it at FindLaw’s divorce section.