Tip: Beware of quick divorces out of state or out of country. Sure, you may get a divorce in one day, but it may not be valid, which could complicate things later if you decide to remarry or you want to enforce some part of the divorce judgement like alimony or child support.
Under US law, wedlock may be altered in three ways: annulment, legal separation or divorce. Your attorney can advise you on which path suits your particular situation and locale.
How they differ:
Annulment - The court declares the marriage was invalid from the beginning. Annulments are rare and possible only when one of you lacked the legal capacity -- such as being under age -- or a fraud was committed. Duress - being forced into marriage - is also grounds for annulment. Only the innocent party can request an annulment.
Separation - A legal separation used to be the most common way for a husband and wife to separate, but it's rarely used today. Key points to consider:
- Separation does not end the marriage.
- In most states, a legal separation does not divide property.
- Court usually awards for custody, alimony, child support and continued health care.
- After a legal separation, neither spouse generally is legally responsible for the debts of the other.
- Most couples who get legal separations usually go back to court for a divorce.
- Legal separation is often preferred by people who disapprove of divorce for religious reasons or who are older couples wishing to separate but continue to have some benefits of marriage.
Divorce - The most common way to end a marriage, it requires filing a complaint at your local courthouse. Divorces may be either Fault or No Fault. In the first case, the grounds (reasons) for divorce are specific such as adultery. No Fault divorces, which have become common since the 1970s, list more general reasons like incompatibility.
BEWARE: If you file for divorce but then decide just to live separately or to reconcile, be sure to request a dismissal of your divorce action. If you don't, your spouse may be able to go back to the court for a final judgement without telling you.