3 Ways to End a Marriage

3 Ways to End a Marriage

She knew it was time. After five years of marriage, Julia was looking for a way out of her marriage to Taylor. As she and her divorce lawyer explored her options, Julia learned there are three ways to end a marriage:  annulment, legal separation, and divorce. Which option would work for her situation?


The specific legal reasons someone might file for an annulment are:

  • The party seeking annulment was under age 18
  • Either party was legally married,
  • Either party was not able to understand the whole process of marriage.
  • The marriage occurred because of fraud.
  • One party was forced to marry.
  • One party was physically unable to consummate the relationship.

In most cases, an annulment must be filed within a certain time frame. For example, an annulment based on force must be filed within four years of the marriage while an annulment for fraud must be filed within four years of discovering the fraud. If you hope to get an annulment, talk to a divorce attorney immediately. Annulment generally is not possible after the appropriate deadline has passed.

However, if an annulment is granted, you need to understand this:  your marriage was never valid. This status has its advantages and disadvantages. You may not have the right to spousal support and California’s community property laws may not apply. Again, talk to a divorce attorney before seeking an annulment.

Legal Separation

The effect of legal separation is very different than that of annulment or divorce. A couple that legally separates under the laws of California is still married. Technically, this is not a way to permanently end a marriage.

However, legal separation can be a good option for troubled marriages. The person filing for legal separation may be uncertain about filing for divorce. In some cases, religion may prohibit divorce. During a legal separation, the couple may live apart and separate their debts and assets without terminating their marital status.

Filing for legal separation is similar to filing for divorce. The outcome and consequences, of course, are different. It’s best to contact a California divorce law firm before filing any papers with the court.


Of the three options, this may be the most common and most easily understood. When someone wants to permanently end a marriage, divorce usually is the best option. That doesn’t mean that the decision to file for divorce or the legal process itself will be easy. In fact, divorce may be one of the most stressful things you go through in life.

Once the decision is made to end a marriage, a couple must file paperwork with the clerk and negotiate a settlement. Sometimes mediators or family counselors can help, especially if child custody or spousal support are involved. Property division is another complicated issue, even in a community property state like California.

Call a California Divorce Attorney to Learn More About How to End a Marriage

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. In fact, Judy Burger is a Certified Family Law Specialist with years of experience.

Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.