While a divorce ends a marriage, the concept behind annulment of marriage is that it vacates the marriage as if it never validly existed. The term “annulment” has origins in religious doctrine. The laws of the State of Illinois describe an annulment as “invalidation of marriage.” The judgment that grants an annulment of marriage under Illinois law is known legally as a “Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage.” To obtain a Declaration of Invalidly or annulment in Illinois, you have to be subject to very specific circumstances.
Quick Answers for Annulment in Illinois
- Most marriages are ineligible for annulment and are limited to divorce, legal separation, or other such options.
- Requesting an annulment requires a Petition for Invalidity of Marriage to be filed in Court and for one or more Court hearings to occur.
- If your situation does not match the short list of eligibility situations that are provided by law, your annulment will be denied.
- Your Petition for Invalidity will be denied if intoxication is your basis, unless you file in Court within 90 days of the wedding or the date you learned of the marriage.
Annulment vs. Divorce under Illinois Law
There are three primary remedies for married couples under Illinois law: legal separation, divorce, and annulment. Annulment is a judgment of invalidity, which comes from a legal proceeding that declares the marriage to be void from its inception. This is unlike divorce, which terminates a valid marriage. Divorce terminates a marriage by legally dissolving what was otherwise a valid marriage, while annulment makes it like the marriage was never valid to start. Many people assume an annulment is a simple way to end a marriage, but understanding the specific requirements and time limits lead most people to conclude it’s not that simple.
The grounds for annulment are stricter than the grounds for divorce, specifically, the requirements of the time limits for seeking an annulment of marriage is much stricter under Illinois law. Unlike a divorce, an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid from the outset. This distinction affects the financial and other legal aspects of the remedy. Most parties that seek an annulment or invalidity or marriage come to learn that divorce might be their only option.
Every marriage can be eligible for a divorce, but only a small percentage of marriages are eligible for an annulment. Divorce cases usually take much longer than annulment cases, because there are typically a lot more issues to fight over in a divorce case. However, this generally relates to the lengthiness of the marriage. While lengthy marriages are eligible for a legal separation and divorce, virtually no lengthy marriages are eligible for an annulment. The exception is a marriage that was already illegal due to being prohibited by law, such as a marriage between close family members.
Eligibility Criteria for Getting Your Marriage Annulled
To be eligible for an annulment in Illinois, your Illinois marriage must meet specific legal criteria, including situations such as:
- Underage marriage without parental consent
- Close family relationships
- Bigamy or polygamy
- Inability to consent
- Lack of capacity due to infirmity or intellectual disability
- Lack of capacity due to being under the influence of alcohol
- Inability to consummate the marriage “by sexual intercourse”
- Marriage obtained fraudulently
- The marriage is illegal due to being prohibited by law
Even if your marriage falls under these grounds, there are strict time limits for seeking an annulment. Being aware of the specific “statutes of limitations” as they are legal deadlines that cause your claim to expire and forecloses your right to recovery. Failing to meet these deadlines could result in the inability to obtain an annulment. Your claim would be waived if the 90-day statute of limitations is not satisfied. The incorrect handling of the annulment filings could also lead to failure to meet these critical deadlines.
The paperwork you must file to start the annulment process is called a Verified Petition for Invalidity of Marriage, and the facts that support how the grounds above must be listed in the Verified Petition. One or more Court hearings are required so that your request for annulment can be adjudicated. During the court hearing, a judge will review and consider the evidence and arguments presented by both sides to determine if the marriage is a fraudulent or invalid marriage based on the grounds provided above. If the judge concludes that the marriage invalid, a judgment of invalidity will be granted, and the marriage will be deemed null and void.
Consulting with a family law attorney is necessary to ascertain if your marriage meets the criteria for annulment and if you are within the time limits before you lose your right to request an annulment. An experienced attorney can assist you through the process for your specific situation.
Navigating the Legal Process for Marriage Annulment
The legal process for obtaining an annulment in Illinois involves several steps:
- Filing a petition for annulment
- Serving the petition to your spouse
- Engaging in required litigation
- Attending one or more court hearings
- Judge determines whether the marriage is invalid based on the provided grounds.
You must file a Petition for Annulment with the circuit court in the county of residence of either you or your spouse to start the annulment process. This must be done before any remedies can be granted or further legal action can be taken. The petition must include a detailed explanation of the facts and legal reasons as to why the declaration of invalidity should be granted, as well as pertinent identifying information about your spouse and any children involved.
Once the petition is filed, serving it to your spouse to inform them of the annulment proceedings is important. Both parties need to be aware of the legal process and have the chance to respond and present their case in court. Due process requires that the responding party receive adequate notice and the opportunity to be heard.
The legal status of children born or adopted during an invalid marriage in Illinois, with or without parental consent, is crucial for future proceedings relating to the children. These children are deemed to be the lawful children of the parties and possess the same rights as those of children of legally married couples.
The legal process for marriage annulment in Illinois can pose challenges, but with assistance from an experienced family law attorney, you can protect your rights and present your case effectively in court.
Seeking Professional Guidance: The Role of Family Law Attorneys
Experienced family law attorneys play an important role in educating and advocating for people through the annulment steps in Illinois. They can help with the following:
- Determine eligibility for annulment
- Assemble the necessary evidence
- Prepare the required legal documents
- Represent you in court proceedings
- Advocate for your interests
- Explain to you the annulment process
The primary duties of an annulment lawyer include offering legal advice and direction, composing legal documents such as petitions for annulment, and advocating for clients in court to obtain the judgment of invalidity. A knowledgeable family law attorney will review your specific circumstances and assess whether your marriage fulfills the criteria for an annulment or invalidity of marriage under Illinois law. The most common reasons for annulment are fraud, duress, bigamy, or lack of capacity to consent to the marriage. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney is necessary when considering a marriage annulment in Illinois, as they provide valuable legal guidance and support.
To schedule an appointment with Attorney Zach Townsend for a consultation on your annulment matter, reach out to us online or by phone or text at (815) 200-8802. We’ll go over the facts of your case and help you put together a new path forward.
Annulment in Illinois Summary
Understanding and navigating annulment in Illinois can be a complex process. By familiarizing yourself with the eligibility criteria, specific laws, and legal processes, you can make informed decisions about your marital future. Remember to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to ensure your rights are protected and to guide you through this challenging journey toward a new beginning.