Is an Annulment the Same as a Divorce in Illinois?

 Posted on February 19, 2020 in Family Law

Geneva family law attorney for annulmentThere are millions of married couples in Illinois and throughout the United States. However, not all marriages last. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of all U.S. marriages end in divorce. Many people may equate a divorce with an annulment or even a legal separation, but they are not the same thing. In a divorce, a couple will seek to dissolve a valid marriage. In an annulment, the marriage is ruled as invalid, as if it never happened. Some people assume that an annulment is easier to obtain than a divorce, but that is not always true. Annulments can have stricter requirements and time limits when compared to a divorce. If you are considering ending your marriage, it is essential that you hire professional legal counsel to fully understand your legal options.    

Declaration of Invalidity 

It is important to note that an annulment is not the same thing as a divorce or legal separation. When married couples legally separate, they live apart but are still technically married in the eyes of the law. An annulment is a way for two people who are in a fraudulent or invalid marriage to legally leave the marriage by essentially voiding it. A marriage can be deemed invalid for various reasons, including if one party was unable to consent to the union due to:

  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Coercion
  • Incest
  • Bigamy
  • Inability to consummate the marriage
  • Being underage at the time of the wedding

A marriage can only be annulled if the court issues a Declaration of Invalidity. An invalid marriage represents an illegal relationship and is therefore not recognized by the state. 

Legal Steps for Ending an Invalid Marriage

Regardless of whether a couple seeks a divorce or an annulment, it will be handled by the circuit court of the county where one of the spouses lives. Once a divorce is final, the decree or settlement outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities for certain issues. These can include matters pertaining to the division of assets or property, spousal maintenance (alimony), child support, and allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody). 

The court may need to address some of the same issues in an annulment. For example, if a couple has children together but is seeking an annulment of their marriage, a judge may determine how parenting time should be divided between the parties. 

In general, a spouse or couple must seek an annulment within 90 days after discovering the issue that makes the marriage invalid. In cases where a marriage is not consummated due to health reasons, it can only be annulled if one spouse was not aware of the other party’s condition when they got married. In these cases, the uninformed spouse must file for an annulment within one year of discovering the reason the marriage should be invalid. Underage spouses have until they reach the age of 18 to get a marriage annulled. If an annulment is sought after the underage spouse turns 18, the marriage may only be legally terminated through a divorce.

Contact a Geneva, IL Annulment Lawyer

Once you determine that your marriage is over, you must also make a decision on how you want to legally end it. In some cases, Illinois couples may be able to seek an annulment, while in others, they will need to end their marriage through divorce. At The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates, we know that the burden of proof in an annulment case can be challenging and complicated. Our Kane County divorce attorneys can help you decide which option is best for your situation and guide you through the proceedings. Call us today at 630-232-9700 to schedule a private consultation. 


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