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Annulment vs. Divorce

Although they are used interchangeably, there are significant differences between a divorce and an annulment. An annulment is legally referred to as an action for Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage. A divorce is the dissolution of a valid marriage. A divorce recognizes that a marriage existed for a period of time but is now over and in a divorce, the marriage is deemed valid when it occurred. An annulment, or a declaration of invalidity, finds that the marriage was never valid from a legal standpoint and it is just as if the legal marriage never occurred.  A “judgment of invalidity” is acquired when a couple is successfully annulled. Therefore, while they both result in separation, an annulment claims the marriage was never valid from the very beginning of the relationship, while a divorce puts an end to a valid marriage.

When Does an Annulment Occur?

An annulment must be filed within 90 days of the beginning of the marriage or since realizing there was an issue with the marriage. If you believe that you may be a candidate for an annulment, consulting one of our skilled attorneys as soon as possible can help ensure your interests are protected.

There are certain cases in which a declaration of invalidity of the marriage through an annulment would be appropriate in the state of Illinois. First, if one or both parties had a lack of capacity to consent due to a mental disability or influence of drugs or alcohol to enter into the marriage may be grounds for an annulment.

Additionally, if one of the individuals entered into the marriage based on fraud, force, or duress, this may be reason to annul the marriage. For example, if another person bullied, coerced, or threatened one of the parties, it could be voided. Also, if one of the individuals was unable to consummate the marriage due to an incapability of sexual intercourse and the other person was unaware of this, then this may be grounds for an annulment.

Furthermore, a declaration of invalidity for a marriage may be proper under Illinois law if one of the individuals was under the age of 18 and did not have consent from either a parent, guardian, or judge.

Finally, if the parties are immediate family members who engaged in an incestuous relationship, this will likely be a case in which a declaration of invalidity for marriage is possible. In Illinois, this includes stepparents and the court will not only make the marriage void, but it will likely enforce additional charges to the parties.

In any one of these circumstances, a party lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage. An annulment may be granted by a court order if a judge can determine that some kind of specific mental or physical impairment existed at the time of the marriage. This order would declare the invalidity of the marriage and makes clear that it should not be recognized by the state.


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