No matter the circumstance, the process of terminating a marriage can be extremely overwhelming and uncertain. Whether the route of divorce or dissolution is chosen, legal professionals that are experienced and honest, and patient yet bold, are needed to protect the goals and rights of each client.

The Family Law attorneys at Isaac Wiles help clients understand the differences between divorce, dissolution, and legal separation and move forward with the option that works best for them. We understand the gravity of this decision, and both the mental and emotional tolls each option takes.

Preserving relationships and assets

Ending a marriage takes great patience. Untangling assets and debts, figuring out support and custody issues, and establishing each spouse as a parent who parents separately takes much more than a few days. Every case and each detail is different, and we want to ensure a solid footing for those wishing to live separate lives.

Our team is extremely comfortable and experienced in each termination process, and in the courtroom when needed. We are prepared to vigorously defend our clients in complex divorce proceedings, especially those that concern the welfare of children and the preservation of critical assets. Through confident and compassionate support, our attorneys assist with child custody and support, parental rights and responsibilities, as well as spousal support, division of assets and debt, business valuation, separate property tracing, and other intricate business interests. We also help with post-judgment (decree) modifications.

Divorce vs. Dissolution

There are two ways to end a marriage in the State of Ohio, divorce or dissolution. Divorce terminates a marriage in an adversarial proceeding when one party alleges grounds for termination. Dissolution can only occur when both parties agree on every issue, and the agreement is formally recorded in a separation agreement.


A divorce starts by a spouse filing a complaint for divorce and asking the court to terminate their marriage. In the complaint, the filer alleges fault to the other spouse under one or more of Ohio’s statutory grounds. A divorce allows the court’s assistance in setting “rules” for the parties to follow while they sort things out, and it establishes finality with a known court date. The primary issues in a divorce situation include:

  • Residency
  • Financial (Assets & Debts)
  • Child Custody
  • Parenting Time
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Healthcare Considerations

If the parties cannot settle these issues, then there is a trial before a judge or magistrate who decides the contested issues.

A contested divorce case can last in excess of one year, with multiple court appearances. It looks and feels adversarial, even if the parties reach an agreement sooner than expected. And, it can be expensive, depending on its complexity. A divorce case may require a party to hire expert witnesses, such as accountants or psychologists. If custody and/or parenting time issues arise, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the best interest of the child(ren).


A dissolution is an agreed termination of marriage. Not only is it less time intensive than a divorce from filing to completion, but to some, it brings mental and emotional peace because they did not “go through a divorce.” A dissolution agreement between spouses must be made on all issues, including division of assets and debts, child custody and parenting time issues, child support and/or spousal support.  Once agreement is reached, dissolution documents are filed with the appropriate court. The parties then appear at a brief court hearing after which a judge terminates the marriage.  While final hearings must take place within 90 days of filing, most are scheduled 30 days after filing, making dissolution a faster resolution once a complete agreement is reached.

In some instances, the parties may solicit the help of a third party, neutral mediator to facilitate settlement negotiations on key disputed issues. A mediator can work with opposing spouses and their attorneys to draft a settlement agreement that a court is likely to approve at a final hearing.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is essentially the same as a divorce. All of the same paperwork must be prepared as one would for a dissolution or a divorce. However, at the end of the proceeding the parties are only “legally separated.” In the eyes of the law they remain married. A legal separation is typically requested for religious reasons or so that a party can stay on the other’s health insurance. In our experience, most parties ultimately decide to terminate their marriage once they start down the path of legal separation.

The Isaac Wiles Family Law team includes attorneys with more than 135 years of combined experience in the areas of divorce, dissolution, separation, premarital agreement, child custody and support, and adoption law. Our attorneys included those listed among the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys Best in Client Satisfaction; Best Lawyers in America; Ohio Super Lawyers and Martindale-Hubble. The Family Law team includes a former Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Court judge, who previously served as a foster parent.

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