What are the options of ways to end a marriage?

Once you have been married, there are two ways to end a marriage, annulment or divorce. Both procedures depend greatly on state law.


Annulment may be proper, depending on the state law, because of things such as:

  • lack of capacity due to being underage,
  • fraudulent misrepresentation of intent in entering into the marriage as evidenced by a failure to ever consummate the marriage,
  • insanity, or
  • failure to disclose a prior felony conviction.

Annulment is different from divorce in that instead of ending the marriage, the law considers the marriage to have never existed at all.


Once a couple is deemed to be married, whether it be by common law or by means of ceremony, that marriage may be terminated only by a decree of a court. The divorce decree does not necessarily have to be entered in the state where the parties were married. Quite frequently one or both parties may change their residence in order to come within the jurisdiction of another state or foreign country to have a quickie divorce entered. Those types of divorce decrees may be valid provided there was a bona fide change in residence and provided proper notice was given to the other spouse of the fact that the marriage was to be terminated.

Depending on the state, a divorce may be decreed either on grounds that the divorce is a person's fault or without assigning fault to either party, no-fault. The fault grounds for a divorce are:

  • adultery - the act of engaging in sexual relations with a person other than your spouse during the marriage. Adultery is difficult to prove. It is rare that the offending spouse is actually caught in the act. More often the jilted spouse has the offending spouse followed by private detectives who then photograph or otherwise record the conduct of the offending spouse going to the home of the paramour, spending the night there, and then exit­ing the following morning. The court will generally accept that as evidence of the fact that an illicit affair is going on.
  • constructive desertion - where one spouse has created circumstances within the family home so intolerable as to be deemed to have deserted the marriage, even though he or she still physically resides in the home. That conduct may come in the form of abuse, denial of sexual rela­tions, or other egregious conduct that essentially results in a termi­nation of the marriage.
  • cruelty - mental abuse or physical abuse
  • actual desertion - the intentional departure from the family home without the consent of the other spouse.

A no-fault divorce means that there is no attribution of fault to the other party, but simply that the par­ties have lived separate and apart for the period of time required by state law with the intent to terminate the marriage.

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