Once you make the personal decision to end your marriage, there are two types of proceedings. One is called a “Dissolution” and the other is called a “Divorce.” The results are exactly the same, each ends your marriage. It is how you get there. A dissolution is a voluntary proceeding from beginning to end. A dissolution agreement can include anything and everything just like a divorce as to property, children, etc.
Once you and your spouse sign the agreement and the judge signs off on it, your agreement becomes a binding court order. It has the same legal effect as a decree of divorce issued by the court. A dissolution proceeding is simpler, faster, and less costly but requires you and your spouse to reach an agreement on everything. If you and your spouse work on draft after draft, negotiating back and forth, with a little work or a lot of work, but successfully reach a complete agreement, you can end your marriage with a dissolution proceeding. Reaching a complete agreement is the key to a dissolution.
The role of a good attorney should be to help you negotiate with your spouse, whether your spouse has an attorney or not, make suggestions to resolve differences that work for both of you, and to point out issues or concerns that you both should clearly address in your agreement. Some dissolutions only require a couple drafts. Others require many drafts over many months with intense negotiations with attorneys representing both spouses. Some are unable to reach a complete agreement, leaving no choice but to file for divorce.