The end of a marriage is a difficult time for all, but how to end that marriage in legal terms is not always cut-and-dry. Spouses have a number of choices as to which tools they use to dissolve their legal and financial relationship. Which is right for you? Here's what you need to know about three options that may be available in your state.

1. Absolute Divorce

The traditional, total legal dissolution of a marriage is generally called an absolute divorce, especially when the state offers limited divorces. Absolute divorce allows the two parties to come to an agreement between themselves as to how they will divide assets, debts, and parental responsibilities. If they cannot decide these, the state provides guidelines for a judge to do so instead.

Absolute divorce is final, and the couple would have to remarry if they want to be a married couple again. They also give up all rights of a spouse, including financial inheritance and decision-making. 

2. Divorce From Bed and Board

Some states allow a less complete divorce, known as divorce from bed and board or limited divorce. This arrangement is very similar to legal separation and may take the place of legal separation in state law. 

Divorce from bed and board as well as legal separation generally requires the couple to come to an agreement about most or all of the same issues as in a divorce. This means things like asset and debt division, co-parenting, custody, pet ownership, and more. This severs the couple's financial partnership and many of their legal obligations or rights regarding each other. 

However, unlike absolute divorce, couples who choose limited divorce are still legally married. They must obtain an absolute divorce in order to remarry. They may also have some legal rights if, for instance, one partner wins the lottery later. Each state determines these details. 

3. Annulment

Don't overlook the option of an annulment. Annulments are less common than divorces but they have their place. When a marriage is annulled, it legally never existed. There may be no division of property because neither party is treated as having been married. However, children are often still considered legitimate, and custody issues are resolved through family court. 

It's hard to get an annulment since there must be legal grounds to erase the marriage from existence. These grounds include fraud, coercion, bigamy, lack of consummation, close kinship, lack of sound mind upon marriage, and other serious impediments to the legitimacy of the foundation of the marriage. 

Where Should You Start?

Which type of dissolution should you choose? There is no one right or wrong answer. Your circumstances, goals, and dynamics determine the best route for your marriage. Find out more about your choices by meeting with a divorce attorney in your state today. Reach out to a local law firm, such as Peterson & Peterson LLC, to learn more.