Usually, when two people marry and decide that it was a mistake, they simply file for divorce. However, in some situations, they opt instead for an annulment. There are many reasons that people wish to obtain an annulment, but in truth, the requirements are very strict. Divorce is easier to get, but sometimes, an annulment may suit your purposes better. It is a good idea to understand the difference between the two.
Requirements for an Annulment
There are only four valid reasons to obtain an annulment (otherwise known as a declaration of invalidity of marriage) in Illinois, as opposed to a divorce. They are:
- One of the parties to the marriage was underage and did not obtain a parent’s consent;
- One of the parties is unable to engage in marital relations;
- One of the parties could not consent to the marriage, either due to being under the influence of a substance, mentally ill, or because their consent was obtained due to force or duress; or
- The marriage was illegal, as it was between two people related to a certain degree or one or both participants were still married to other people.
These are the only reasons that a declaration of invalidity of marriage may be obtained in this state. Any other reason, including religious incompatibility or crimes committed against one or both spouses (such as spousal abuse), may lead to a divorce but not an annulment.
A declaration of invalidity of marriage must also be obtained within a specific period, while a divorce can happen in theory anytime. The statute of limitations on annulments ranges from 90 days (in cases of force or incapacitation) to the time until a minor turns 18 years old.
Pros and Cons of Declaring a Marriage Invalid
While many attempt to get an annulment for religious reasons, there are actually very few upsides to declaring your marriage invalid as opposed to obtaining a simple divorce. With a declaration that your marriage is invalid, it will usually be entered as retroactive. That means that legally, your marriage never existed and that the court will not have any authority to adjudicate issues like parental rights and child support, maintenance (formerly called alimony) and/or property division. If your marriage is declared invalid, you must go through an entirely separate proceeding to handle the other affairs that a divorce court would normally handle.
Some people worry that their children will have their paternity questioned if they have their marriage declared invalid, but this is not the case in Illinois. As long as the marriage was believed to be lawful at the time their children were born, their paternity will not be at issue under Illinois law. Thus, this question is irrelevant in deciding which process would work best for you.
A Divorce Attorney Can Help
Even if you and your spouse decide that declaring your marriage invalid is the best choice for you, having an annulment and divorce attorney on your side can be invaluable for making the process smoother and more efficient. Contact a skilled Wheaton annulment attorney for a free consultation today.