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When Is It Too Late to File for Summary Dissolution of a Marriage?

If you're looking to end a marriage, you have options. If you don't think your union was ever legally valid in the first place, you could have it annulled. If you're tired of your spouse, but maybe want to retain some of the legal benefits of the marriage, you could opt for a legal separation. And then there's always the classic divorce.

One option many people don't know about is called a summary divorce or summary dissolution. These tend to be a bit more rare, mostly because states can be pretty particular about who is eligible for summary dissolution, and they have pretty strict deadlines. So, when is it too late for you to file for summary dissolution? Here's a look:

Dissolution Deadlines

Divorce laws can vary significantly depending on where you live, and not all states offer simplified divorces. Generally speaking, eligibility for a summary divorce or dissolution is determined by six factors:

  1. You and your spouse have no minor children (natural or adopted);
  2. You and your spouse have no significant "real property" interests (i.e., you don't own or mortgage a home);
  3. The total value of your shared marital property is less than a certain amount (generally between $25,000 and $35,000, and not including any motor vehicles);
  4. Total value of you and your spouse's shared debt is less than a certain amount (it may be the same threshold as with total marital property, above); and
  5. You and your spouse both give up any right to alimony or spousal support.
  6. You and your spouse can't have been married for too long.

The sixth factor is the big one. The time limits vary by state: California's deadline is five years; Oregon sets theirs at ten; meanwhile, Florida has no time limit, but you must meet other factors. Also, the divorce must be uncontested, meaning that you and your soon-to-be ex don't have any unresolved issues regarding ending the marriage and divvying up your debts and assets.

Summary Superiority

The advantages of a summary dissolution are that they are often cheaper, quicker, and tend to be more amicable than an acrimonious divorce proceeding. But they're not available for all couples, especially if you've been married too long.

While you could file for summary dissolution on your own, it's always good to talk to an experienced divorce attorney first, to decide if it's the right option for you.

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