A summary divorce – also known as a summary dissolution of marriage – may be a practical option for couples with minimal assets, no children and no desire for spousal support as part of the final settlement. This streamlined alternative to a traditional divorce offers convenience and efficiency as it is typically faster with less paperwork to fill out and fewer court appearances to make.
While states vary in their eligibility requirements for a summary divorce, most jurisdictions require the following:
- The couple doesn’t have natural or adopted minor children; some states allow a couple to go forward with a summary divorce if they submit documentation to the court demonstrating that they have come to an agreement regarding child support payments and custody arrangements.
- The marriage was of short duration; generally, states consider a marriage that lasted five years or fewer to fall into this category.
- The couple does not own or mortgage a home or other substantial real property interests
- Both spouses give up their right to alimony
- Separate and marital assets for both spouses do not exceed a certain threshold; some states may allow couples to submit documentation proving that they have agreed on a fair division of the assets if their value exceeds the threshold. While these assets may include stocks and bank accounts, motor vehicles are generally considered exempt, so their value doesn’t come into play.
- The couple does not have substantial joint debts
Summary divorces usually require only a few forms that, in many cases, can be obtained from a family court in the couple’s jurisdiction. The initial filing is known in some states as a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage or a similarly titled form. Both parties must sign the completed form. If the couple is submitting documentation demonstrating that they have come to an agreement on matters that would normally preclude them from completing a summary divorce, these documents should be submitted along with the joint petition.