Divorce and Annulments: When to Use Each
Sometimes, marriages do not work out. However, the same dissolution procedure is not always the best for each situation. If you have been married a very short time, you may be able to annul your marriage instead of having it dissolved. Still, it is important to understand when this is appropriate and when you are better off opting for a standard divorce.
Dissolution of Marriage
A divorce is referred to under Illinois law as a dissolution of marriage, and almost any couple can obtain one. Until recently, Illinois offered fault-based grounds for divorce such as bigamy, but the law was amended in 2015 to remove all grounds except for irreconcilable differences—the standard “no-fault” ground for divorce. The law was also changed to eliminate the requirement for a couple to live apart for six months or more before their divorce could be granted.
Dissolution is the right option when a couple agrees that a valid marriage has taken place but at least one spouse no longer wants to remain in it. A proceeding for a dissolution of marriage deals with all the standard issues of asset distribution, parenting time, and similar concerns, and upon its conclusion, the parties are deemed no longer married to one another.
By comparison, annulments are designed for times when there was an irregularity in a marriage from the beginning. In other words, divorce ends a legally valid marriage, while annulment ends a legally invalid marriage. There are several grounds of invalidity that may be cited in order to annul a marriage, most of which have to do with the incapacity of the person (or people) involved to legally consent or form a contract. Some include:
- Inability to consummate a marriage;
- Inability of one or both partners to consent (due to either age or mental capacity; sometimes the marriage of a minor will be annulled only for the couple to remarry after they have both attained the age of majority); and
- The marriage being illegal from the beginning, due to bigamy or the bride and groom being too closely related.
Be advised that annulments, unlike dissolutions of marriage, have time limits. Depending on the basis for the annulment, you will have anywhere between 90 days and three years in which to file. For example, if you find out that your marriage is invalid due to bigamy, you have up to three years after your partner’s spouse has died in which to file for an annulment, but only 90 days in which to file if the marriage is invalid due to mental incapacity or fraud.
A Divorce Attorney Can Assist
Whether you need a divorce or an annulment, it is a good idea to consult an attorney before moving forward. The experienced Kane County divorce lawyers at The Law Office Douglas B. Warlick & Associates understand that family law is a complex area. We are ready, willing and able to offer suggestions on how to handle your individual matter. Contact us today at 630-232-9700 to set up a confidential consultation.