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Quick Answer:

What is a Dissolution of Marriage in Pennsylvania?

“Dissolution” of a marriage may be the legal label in other states, but in Pennsylvania, it is and always has been “divorce”, both as the name and the process itself. 

If you see the term “dissolution” of marriage put forth as a way to end a marriage, it is either referring to that process in another state or it is being used very inartfully if it is being used as a method to end a marriage in Pennsylvania. “Dissolution” is not a term used in Pennsylvania divorce law. Accordingly, if you see it being used in reference to Pennsylvania law, hit the “delete” button as the author likely knows nothing about Pennsylvania’s legal actions used to end marriages.

If “dissolution” is the noun, then “dissolve” is the verb, and, in Pennsylvania, our Courts do not “dissolve” marriages. We end marriages here through divorce, annulment (see https://padivorce.com/annulment-in-pennsylvania/) or “till death do us part”.

The legal term of art “dissolution” is used in other jurisdictions (states), however… and maybe on TV and in paperback novels. Perhaps the legislators there feel that “divorce” has too much of a negative connotation to it and wanted to use what they think is a more genteel term or, perhaps, a more fashionable one. (I have to wonder, then. In such states, afterwards, if one is not a divorcee, then, what? A dissolutionaire?) I do have to say that if one can say, “We had our marriage dissolved”, it sort of makes it seem like the marriage and any memories of it, both good and bad, were turned into dust and allowed to blow away with the next gentle breeze. Did the Court use judicial fairy dust to make those two people single as if they never had been married? Of course not. The decision to end a marriage, no matter what law may entitle it, is unpleasant and very serious. If the parties cannot agree on how to do it peacefully, it will also be very expensive no matter where they may reside. There could be nasty and vengeful behavior by one or both spouses. Accordingly, labeling the legal breakup a dissolution does not make it one bit less unpleasant or any less expensive.

So, here in Pennsylvania, it is “divorce”, not “dissolution” and all of the court documents and letters from lawyers will use only that term. If someone or something whom or which you heard or read led you to believe that there was some sort of less unpleasant label to apply to the legal ending of your marriage as a Pennsylvania resident, you have been misled into that belief. Keep this in mind: If you and your spouse have decided that the time has come to go your separate ways, a low-cost, simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce will do it for you and, even if divorce has a slightly unseemly sound to it, your new life with new chances for happiness will begin on the other end of one.