When a marriage ends, most people think of divorce as the only legal path forward. However, in certain circumstances, an annulment of marriage might be a more appropriate choice.
Comparing divorce to annulment
Divorce and annulment are two different legal procedures that effectively end a marriage. However, they do so in different ways and are used in different circumstances:
Divorce: A divorce, or dissolution of marriage, is the termination of a valid marriage between two people. After a divorce, both parties are free to remarry. The court may also make decisions about child custody, child support, spousal support/alimony, and division of property.
Annulment: An annulment, or a Judgment of Invalidity in Illinois, is a declaration by the court that a marriage was never legally valid. It may be granted if the marriage was entered under conditions of duress, fraud, or if one party was underage or mentally incapable of consenting to marriage. An annulled marriage is considered null and void, as if it never happened.
Can you get an annulment in Illinois?
In Illinois, the term annulment is not officially used. Instead, it's referred to as a Judgment of Invalidity. This means that the court declares a marriage is void or voidable.
A Judgment of Invalidity doesn’t end a marriage the way divorce does. Rather, it declares that the marriage was never valid to begin with.
Requirements for Judgment of Invalidity in Illinois
The state of Illinois requires you to prove grounds for annulment before it will be granted. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, you may be in a voidable marriage if any of the following apply:
- One party lacked the capacity to consent due to mental incapacity or the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or, they were induced by force, duress, or fraud.
- One party cannot physically consummate the marriage, and the other was unaware of this at the time of the wedding.
- One or both parties were underage and did not have proper parental consent or court approval. Without parental consent, the legal age for marriage in Illinois is 18.
- The marriage is prohibited by law because it is in violation of prohibitions such as bigamy or incest.
Judgment of Invalidity: Steps
The process of obtaining a judgment of invalidity involves four basic steps:
- Filing a petition: The petitioner must file a petition for invalidity in the county where either party resides. The petition must state the grounds for the invalidity.
- Serving the respondent: The respondent (other party) must be served with notice of the petition. They have the opportunity to respond.
- Gathering evidence: Both parties may need to gather evidence to support their claim of invalidity.
- Court hearing: A court hearing will be held where both parties present their cases. The judge then makes a decision based on the evidence and testimony presented.
The decision to seek a divorce or a Judgment of Invalidity in Illinois depends on your unique circumstances. Both procedures effectively end a marriage, but they do so in different ways.
If you're considering ending your marriage, it's essential to understand these differences. If you have questions or need guidance, let us help. We’re experts in our field, and we provide free 15-minute introductory phone calls where you can ask your questions and get our professional input on what your next steps could be.
We also offer hourly consultations with an attorney for those who just want a little legal advice plus a host of other services.
Remember: You’re not alone, and you don’t have to do this alone.