When walking down the aisle on that big wedding day, the thought of things not working out is not likely to cross your mind. Unfortunately, marriage can be an extremely complex and difficult walk and things do not always go as planned. Regardless of the reason, there comes a time in some marriages where neither party can find a way to make things work. When this happens, one or both parties may seek to terminate the marriage. The goal of this article is to provide a clear understanding of the different ways to legally end a marriage and explore the course of action in doing so.

4 Ways to Legally End A Marriage

There are four ways to legally end a marriage: death of a spouse, divorce, judicial declaration of nullity, and court authorization of the spouse of a person who is presumed dead to remarry. Let’s explore each option. 

Death of Spouse

“Until death do us part” is likely to be spoken by your wedding officiate at some point throughout your wedding ceremony. Even if it doesn’t make your vows, this part of the marriage “contract” is still in place. The death of a spouse legally ends a marriage and allows the surviving spouse to remarry at a later date. Depending on where you live, there may or may not be time restrictions or even age restrictions on when a new marriage of a widow can take place so be sure to check your local laws or consult with a family law attorney to ensure your new marriage will indeed be valid and legal.


Divorce is an extremely common option for terminating a marriage. Divorce is defined as the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body. The two types of divorce are at fault, and no-fault divorce. An at fault divorce is the type of divorce in which one spouse must prove the other is responsible for the ending of the marriage. Legal fault includes instances of adultery, felony, abuse, and protective order. In a no-fault divorce, the parties must live separate and apart for at least 365 days prior to filing for divorce if they have minor children and 180 days before filing if there are no minor children. If in a covenant marriage, there are other steps that must be taken prior to seeking to dissolve the marriage including, but not limited to, marital counseling.

Judicial declaration of nullity 

If your marriage qualifies, you may pursue an annulment rather than a divorce. An annulment is when your marriage was not considered valid and if granted it is as if you were never married. Grounds for annulment include lack of free consent, one spouse was still legally married at the time of the ceremony, and/or lack of a valid ceremony. For more information on annulments, valid wedding ceremonies and the difference between annulment and divorce, view our post “Annulment vs. Divorce”.

Presumed Dead

If your spouse disappears and is unable to be located or contacted for a certain extent of time, a court authorization can be obtained to declare the spouse presumed dead. This would terminate the marriage and allow the spouse to remarry.

If you are seeking to terminate your marriage, contact Latiolais Law Firm to explore which of these options you qualify for and the benefits of each. Emily Latiolais is a skilled family law attorney in Lafayette, Louisiana and takes a very personal approach to each client. Gain peace of mind knowing you are represented by someone who will not only look out for your best interest but be there for you inside and outside the courtroom.