We have studied fundamental aspects of photo-induced dissociation kinetics and dynamics in several phenyl halides. By combining femtosecond pump-probe measurements with ab initio calculations we are able to account for several observations. In mixed phenyl halides, the dissociation kinetics is found to be dependent on the nature, the number, and the position of the substituents, and also on the excitation wavelength. A surprisingly large reduction in the dissociation time constant, compared to that of bromobenzene (~30 ps), is observed when having two or more fluorine atoms. For example, in bromopentafluorobenzene a subpicosecond time constant is obtained. This can be explained by a significant lowering of the repulsive potential energy curves (PEC) along the C-Br bond. However, several of the experimental results cannot be accounted for by one-dimensional PECs. Therefore, we suggest a refined model for the dissociation, in which the excited states of the same spin multiplicity are coupled by employing multidimensional potential energy surfaces. This model has been explicitly evaluated by quantum dynamics simulations in the case of 3-BrFPh, and it seems to be capable of capturing the main features in the measured kinetics. Thereby we are also able to clarify the role of spin-orbit coupling in these molecules.