There are two ways a couple can legally terminate their marriage: divorce and annulment. Annulment differs significantly from divorce in that it not only ends the marriage, but declares it invalid. After a marriage has been annulled, in the eyes of the law, it’s as if the marriage never occurred. Illinois law refers to an annulment of marriage as a “judgment of invalidity.” Judgments of invalidity are granted only under very specific circumstances in Illinois. Not just any marriage is eligible for invalidation under this law.
Grounds for Invalidating a Marriage in Illinois
Many people seeking a divorce or separation may wish their marriage never happened. However, invalidity of marriage is not avavible for couples who simply regret getting married. An Illinois judge may only grant a judgment of invalidity if certain grounds, or reasons, exist. In order to request a judgment of invalidity, one or more of the following grounds must be present:
- A party to the marriage lacked the ability to consent to marriage due to mental incapacitation or the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- A party entered the marriage through fraud or duress (coercion). It is important to note that only fraud that affects the "essentials of the marriage," is a viable ground for annulment. For example, if one party only got married to avoid deportation, the other spouse may be able to file for an annulment. A spouse simply lying about their personal accomplishments or another fabrication which does not influence the essence of the marriage would probably not be considered grounds for a judgement of invalidity;
- A party is unable to physically consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of this inability before the marriage;
- The marriage is bigamous (one party is already legally married to another living person) or incestuous; and
- One or both of the spouses were underage at the time of the marriage and failed to get the required approval of a parent, guardian, or Illinois judge.
Civil Annulments Versus Religious Annulments
Many churches and religious organizations offer their patrons an option to annul or invalidate their marriage in the eyes of the church. It is important to note that religious annulments are not recognized under Illinois law. The only way to legally void your marriage in Illinois is to meet the requirements listed in the Illinois Compiled Statutes and be granted a judgment of invalidity from a judge. If you do not meet the requirements, a divorce is your only option for legally ending the marriage....