In this article...

Watch Our Video
Kevin O'Flaherty

Considering an annulment in Illinois? It's more complex than many assume. An annulment, legally known as a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, erases the marriage as if it never occurred, based on strict grounds such as underage involvement without consent, incapacity, or bigamy. The process requires filing a legal petition, attending a court hearing, and adhering to tight deadlines—significantly different from divorce. Children from annulled marriages retain inheritance and support rights, and some financial aspects like property division are considered, essentially aiming to revert parties to their pre-marriage financial states. What distinguishes an annulment from a divorce, and how can you effectively manage this demanding legal process?

Key Takeaways

  • In Illinois, annulment legally nullifies a marriage based on strict criteria such as lack of consent, inability to consummate, underage involvement without consent, and illegal marriages.
  • To seek annulment, one must file a legal petition, serve it to the other spouse, and attend a court hearing to obtain a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, adhering to specific deadlines.
  • Children from annulled marriages remain legitimate, retaining rights to child support and inheritance. Financially, annulments can involve property division for putative spouses but typically aim to restore individuals to their pre-marriage financial status.

When two Illinois residents choose to end their marriage, they have the option of divorce and annulment. In a divorce, the Illinois court orders the dissolution of a legal marriage. In an annulment, the Illinois court rules a marriage invalid, therefore treating the marriage as if it never took place. Many people assume that a marriage annulment is more accessible to obtain than a divorce, but that is not always the case. Annulments have much stricter requirements and time limits than divorce.

What is a marriage annulment? 

A marriage annulment is not a legal separation. It is a way for two partners with a fraudulent or invalid marriage to exit the marriage legally. If a marriage is deemed invalid, it may be from impotence, bigamy, or one partner entering the marriage while unable to consent due to mental illness, drug or alcohol use, coercion, or being underage. Annulments are not subject to Illinois divorce laws. Still, they are subject to specific legal requirements, which differ from other states.

In Illinois, annulment is referred to as a Declaration of Invalidity, and marriages can only be annulled if they qualify for an invalid marriage. An invalid marriage represents a relationship that was already illegal from the start and will not be recognized by the state. That being said, annulments do not separate a marriage; they establish a public record that the marriage was never valid, to begin with. The union is considered valid if a relationship is invalid. Still, neither spouse seeks an annulment to prove a voidable marriage. 

What’s the difference between divorce and annulment?

Often, the media portrays marriage annulments as a “quick fix” to a drunken Las Vegas wedding. However, marriage annulments are much more complex. Divorces are easier to obtain, as annulments have strict requirements and time limits, and divorces are much more common. Generally, an annulment isn’t better than a divorce. The main reason why people seek annulments over a divorce is to avoid court-ordered payments, like when a couple is forced to divide their assets or one spouse is forced to pay money to the other.

Annulments and divorces are similar in the sense that they determine marital status, but the most significant difference between divorce and annulments is the validity of the marriage. A divorce is a legal separation of an existing, valid marriage. An annulment is a legal process to declare a marriage invalid, therefore erasing the marriage altogether. Another big difference between divorce and annulment is the grounds on which the spouses can file. For example, Illinois provides 11 grounds when filing for divorce and four grounds for an annulment. Divorce requirements include adultery, substance abuse, felony conviction, or infestation with a sexually transmitted disease. Annulment requirements include:

  • Underage spouses.
  • Intoxication at the time of the marriage.
  • The inability to consummate the marriage.

Divorce and annulments are handled by the county’s circuit court, where the individual seeking the annulment or their partner resides. Once a divorce is finalized, the court establishes each spouse’s rights and responsibilities regarding property division, alimony, child support, and custody. Similarly, the court will decide on child custody agreements and support if the relationship has children after an annulment proceeding.

What are the requirements for a marriage annulment in Illinois?

For an Illinois marriage to be deemed invalid, the relationship must violate the law, public policy, or both. The state of Illinois recognizes four main grounds for annulling a marriage: illegality (void marriage), lack of consent, inability to consummate the marriage, or underage without parental consent. If a judge determines a marriage invalid, they may annul the marriage with a Judgment of Invalidity. The time limit to seek an annulment depends on the reason for the annulment.

Valid grounds for an annulment in Illinois are as follows:

  • One spouse could not consent to the marriage due to being mentally disabled, under duress, or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the marriage (90 days)
  • One spouse cannot engage in sexual intercourse, and the second spouse was not aware of this fact at the time of the marriage (365 days after discovering the inability to consummate)
  • One spouse was under the age of 18 and did not have parental consent to marry at the time of the marriage (up until the day the underage spouse turns 18)
  • The marriage is illegal due to the couple’s close family relations (unlimited)
  • One spouse was already married to another person at the time of the marriage.

Generally, the annulment has to be sought within 90 days of discovering the issue. If a marriage is unconsummated, the court will only annul the marriage if the innocent spouse was unaware of the other party’s condition when married and files for annulment within one year of discovering the impairment. When it comes to underage spouses, the underage individuals and their parents have until the minor turns 18 to seek an annulment. If an annulment is sought after the underage spouse turns 18, the marriage can only be ended by divorce.

How to annul a marriage in Illinois 

To obtain an annulment in the state of Illinois, you must begin by filing a Petition for Annulment with the circuit court of the county in which you or your spouse currently resides. This is not an official state form but a document you must file to provide a sufficient explanation of why your marriage is invalid. The petition is then served to your spouse, who may agree or contest it. Once you’ve submitted the petition to your circuit court, a judge will examine it to determine whether you have grounds for an annulment or not. If you can obtain a judgment of invalidity, you’ll be considered a single person, free to marry again.

To annul your marriage in the state of Illinois, follow these steps:

1.) Be aware of the “statute of limitations” affecting your ability to ask for a judgment of invalidity and talk to a lawyer. If you’re thinking about asking a judge to void your marriage, we can help guide you through the custodial and child support issues, as well as the financial ramifications you may be facing. Don’t hesitate; in many cases, you may only have 90 days to annul the marriage.

2.) File a Petition for Annulment with the clerk of the circuit court of the county you or your spouse live in. It should explain why the judgment of invalidity should be granted, providing identifying facts about your spouse and any children involved. Again, the state does not provide a standard template form for you – it’s your responsibility to draw up the pleading yourself. The clerk will date-stamp the petition, enter the document into the court record, and collect a filing fee.

3.) Your spouse will be notified, and they can either agree or disagree with your position in a limited amount of time (usually 20 to 30 days, depending on the jurisdiction) by filing an Answer to the Petition for Annulment.

4.) Attend the court hearing on your Petition for Annulment. Both you and your spouse must attend the hearing. You’re allowed to bring evidence and witnesses to prove the invalidity of your marriage. Be sure to answer any questions the judge asks you truthfully. The judge typically makes a decision by the end of the hearing, but they do have the right to hold the case open for a limited amount of time for further evidence and/or additional testimony is needed.

5.) If the judge determines your marriage as invalid, you’ll receive the Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage, signed by the Illinois judge. The clerk will enter the decision into the public record, and you technically have never been legally married.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


Get my FREE E-Book

Similar Articles

Learn about Law