If your marriage is on the rocks and you’re looking for a way out, you might feel like divorce is the only option. But in reality, you have several choices – divorce being just one of them.

4 Options When Marriage Goes Sideways

You’ve probably heard the shocking data point before: Half of all marriages end in divorce! But this isn’t entirely true. While that might have been the case back in the 1980s or even the early 1990s, things have actually improved over the last couple of decades. And while it’s hard to nail down an exact statistic, experts say the chances of a marriage ending in divorce in 2022 are right around 39 percent. In other words, two out of every five marriages don’t make it. (And if it’s your first marriage, the statistics are a little closer to the 50 percent range.)

While there are certainly legitimate reasons for ending a marriage, you should know that divorce is expensive. In fact, Nolo ran some surveys on the issue and examined the dollars and cents.

“In our survey, the overall average total cost of a full-scope attorney was $11,300—but fees ranged from an average of $4,000 for those with no contested issues to $21,500 average for those who had a trial on three or more issues,” Nolo’s legal editor E.A. Gjelten explains.

To be honest, cost is just a small part of this whole equation. While nobody wants to fork over that kind of money to end a marriage, the real concern is the permanency of the decision. A divorce impacts your children, your future finances, and your current and future relationships. If you’re not 100 percent confident that divorce is the right move, here are some alternatives:


If you think divorce is automatically going to solve all of your problems, think again. Prepare to have a long list of new problems, like expensive bills, higher living costs (you’ll be shocked how many new things you have to buy), changes to your work schedule (if kids are involved), etc. And we haven’t even mentioned the emotional aspects!

If you think divorce is an easy way out, you’re in for a surprise. Staying together is difficult, and divorce is difficult. Choose your difficult. Counselling is one good option for couples who think they might be able to make it work. It’ll be emotional, uncomfortable, challenging, and gruelling. But it might just be worth it, too.

2.Legal Separation

Here’s a really sage piece of advice that sounds cliché, but is actually very important: Don’t rush into a decision. When there’s this much on the line, patience is a virtue worth cultivating.

“Most people assume they have to immediately jump into a divorce, but divorce is permanent. Always remember that,” attorney Rowdy G. Williams points out. “It may be smarter to try legal separation until the intense emotions dissipate a bit.”

If you live in a state that recognizes it, legal separation allows you to effectively end your relationship without legally terminating the marriage. It allows you to stay married in order to continue to enjoy benefits like health insurance, tax deductions, etc.


Definitely want to end the marriage, but would rather not go through the intense and expensive process of divorce? Try mediation. This is a much smoother and less expensive way to work through divorce issues with a neutral third party. Mediation only works if you and your spouse are on decent terms and are each willing to participate in a little “give and take.”


If you’d like to end your marriage, but don’t believe in the principle of divorce, you may try an annulment. This is a court process that orders your marriage invalid. In other words, it’s like it never existed in the eyes of the law.

States only recognize civil annulments (though there’s such a thing as a religious annulment). Each state has different grounds for doing this, but common legal grounds include fraud, bigamy, incapacity, an underage spouse, kinship, or failure to consummate the marriage. (Note: If you file for an annulment, you waive the right to spousal support.) 

Making the Right Decision

Divorce could be the right move for you and your spouse. Or it’s possible that you need to go another route, like counselling to repair the marriage, or legal separation to let heightened emotions cool down a bit. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all choice. We’ve given you some options, and now you and your spouse will have to work together to determine where to go from here.