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When to Get an Annulment


Published on December 10th, 2021

In 2019, there were about 2.2 million marriages and roughly 1 million divorces in the U.S. Only a small percentage of those divorces were handled as annulments, a legal process for invalidating a marriage. If you assume you are automatically eligible for one because your marriage only lasted a few months, you might be in for a surprise.

Annulments are very uncommon due to the limited conditions for which they can be granted. A divorce, on the other hand, is the much more common and straightforward mechanism for terminating a marriage. However, if you think you have grounds for an annulment, an experienced family law attorney can let you know if you have a case, help you file for a judgment of invalidity and ensure you present evidence that will best support your case.

Legal Grounds Determine Whether Annulments are Granted in Illinois

Under Illinois law, either party can file a petition with a circuit court asking a judge for an annulment, which legally declares that a marriage is invalid. If granted, it indicates that the state no longer recognizes the marriage as having existed, unlike with a divorce.

Time is of the essence when it comes to filing. Depending on the grounds for the annulment, an action may be required to be filed as soon as 90 days after the date of the marriage. Thus, even if one qualifies for an annulment, there are specific deadlines in place that may nevertheless bar an annulment if an annulment petition is not filed on a timely basis.

Four Reasons to Get an Annulment in Illinois

In Illinois there are only four bases for an annulment, which are as follows:

Inability to consent. In this case, you would need to present evidence indicating one spouse was not able to consent to be married. Possible reasons a party didn’t have the capacity to consent include:

  • A mental disability. The annulment may be granted by a court order if a judge can determine that a specific mental infirmity or impairment existed at the time of the marriage that prevented a party from having legal capacity to consent to the marriage.
  • Influence of drugs or alcohol. One or both parties lacked the mental capacity to consent due to drugs or alcohol.
  • Force, duress, or fraud. The victim may have to show evidence of deception by the other party with the intent to cause damage – for instance, being bullied, coerced, or threatened into marriage.

Sexual reasons. A physical inability to have sexual intercourse that the other spouse didn’t know about at the time of marriage may be grounds for an annulment.

Age of one or both parties. In Illinois, if one spouse was under 18 and hadn’t obtained consent from a parent, guardian, or the court at the time of the marriage, it will typically be invalidated.

The marriage was illegal. There are several other reasons the state might not allow a marriage between people. If it is discovered that one spouse was still married to someone else, that would automatically invalidate the union. Another potential reason is if it is discovered the two parties are closely related such as between siblings, a parent and child, an uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, first cousins and other similar close, family relationships.

Isn’t an Annulment Also a Religious Practice?

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly a quarter of Catholic couples in the US who have been divorced have sought an annulment from the church. Pope Francis has made headlines for trying to streamline the annulment process to make it quicker and cheaper for Catholics. However, a religious annulment granted by a church won’t legally terminate your marriage. The primary purpose of taking this step is so the former couple can remarry within their faith someday.

Getting Assistance for Your Annulment

Other common factors of divorce can still apply after obtaining an annulment. You may need to go through separate proceedings to have decisions on parental rights, child support, and visitation handled by a court.

If you believe that you may be a candidate for an annulment, consult one of the skilled attorneys at Davis Friedman as soon as possible. Remember – there is a narrow time frame in which your request must be filed. A lawyer who specializes in annulments can walk you through the steps and help ensure your interests are protected. Contact us at 312-782-2220 for a consultation today.

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