How to End a Sham Marriage

By Jody Hanson
Brides and grooms at sham weddings have been arrested at the altar.
Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Sham marriages -- whether for a visa in exchange for cash or without a conjugal relationship or with a hangover and a marriage certificate from an Elvis chapel in Las Vegas -- they are a farce. Living a lie is difficult and can have psychological repercussions. According to the BBC, sham marriages to obtain visas in England and Wales are up by 66 percent. Ending a sham marriage may be the best way to move on to a better life.

Don't delay. The longer you stay in a sham marriage the more difficult it is to end it. There is also a threat of having a visit from the immigration officials if the sham marriage was for visa purposes.

Organize a plan and cover your bases. Use the formula of "expect the best, but plan for the worst." If there was a cash payout involved, it may complicate leaving the sham marriage or result in violence. Have back-up options -- such as a friend to stay with -- in place.

Discuss the logistics with your soon to be ex-partner. Decide who is going to move and who is going to stay or if you are both going to relocate.

Resolve the issue of how and when you are going to tell your children. A divorce impacts on children. If you tell them the marriage was a sham it may compound an already unhappy situation, so calculate whether or not the information is something they need to know.

Hire a lawyer to help you get out of your sham marriage. Be honest with her and explain that it was a sham from the beginning, if it was arranged, or the date it became a deception if it is for other reasons. Explain that you want to get out of the phony marriage as quickly and as fiscally solvent as you can.

File for separation. Get the paperwork in process as soon as possible. If there is the possibility of a violent reaction, consider getting a restraining order.

Get counseling. If you stayed in a sham marriage, chances are that you may feel emotionally unraveled. Ask your doctor for a referral or check to see what sort of support services are available in your community.

Obtain a divorce as soon as possible. The sooner you have the final divorce papers, the sooner you can start your new life.

About the Author

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.