When a marriage is invalid, parties can seek an annulment, which is different from a divorce. A divorce seeks to end a marital relationship and is a long and complex process. An annulment may be considered simpler in some cases, and it does not end a marriage but instead states the marriage never existed. A Chicago family law attorney can help you determine if you qualify for an annulment and whether your interests and rights are better protected with a divorce or annulment.

There are strict requirements you must meet to get an annulment. There must be a reason for a marriage to be considered invalid, such as if the marriage is prohibited by law or if one party was under the influence during the ceremony.

What Are the Grounds for an Annulment in Chicago?

In Illinois, an annulment is called a declaration of invalidity, and grounds for annulment are when the legal requirements for a marriage were not met. One of the involved parties can file for an annulment to request that the marriage be recognized as never having occurred in the first place.

A marriage is determined to be invalid in the following circumstances:

  1. Lack of Capacity: A marriage is considered invalid if one party did not have the capacity to consent to the marriage. This may be because of mental incapacity due to drugs or alcohol. It may also be because the party was put under duress or force to consent to the marriage. If one party engaged in fraud about an essential aspect of the marriage, this may also be grounds for an annulment.
  2. Impotency: A marriage is deemed invalid if one party does not have the physical ability to consummate the marriage, was unable to when the marriage was entered into, and the other party did not know of the inability.
  3. Lack of Consent When Underage: A marriage is invalid if either party was 16 or 17 and did not have approval to be married. Approval may be from a parent, legal guardian, or the court. Minors 15 and under are not legally allowed to be married.
  4. Prohibited Marriage: If the marriage is prohibited under state law, it is invalid.

Why Might a Marriage Be Prohibited?

A marriage is prohibited under Illinois law for the following reasons:

  1. Bigamy, where one spouse has a prior marriage that they never dissolved, making any subsequent marriages invalid
  2. Incest, or marriages between relatives, including siblings or ancestors and descendants, even if they are adopted. It also includes marriages between aunts or uncles and nieces or nephews. This is true whether the relationship is by half or whole blood. A marriage between first cousins is also prohibited except in specific circumstances.

Depending on the cause of the annulment, parties may need to file within 90 days of discovering the reason for the annulment. For impotency, annulment must be requested within a year of discovery. An underage marriage must be annulled before the parties turn 18, but it can also be petitioned for by the parent or legal guardian of the minor.

Impact of an Annulment vs. a Divorce

Because an annulment does not end a marriage but voids it, the legal requirements regarding a divorce don’t apply. In a divorce, spouses must split marital assets, and the court has the jurisdiction to split the assets if the couple does not. The court does not have this jurisdiction after an annulment. The court also does not have the ability to award spousal support. In some cases, this can make a split more complicated for the parties, and it removes essential financial protections.

Children who are born or adopted into a marriage that is later invalidated are the legal children of both parties of the annulment. The court has the jurisdiction to create and enforce child custody or child support rulings regardless of whether the couple annulled their marriage or divorced.


Q: When Can You Annul a Marriage in Illinois?

A: You can annul a marriage in Illinois for one of the following reasons:

  1. Bigamy, or having a prior un-ended marriage when entering into another
  2. Impotency, or being physically unable to consummate the marriage
  3. Incest, or marriage between close relatives
  4. Underage marriage, where a 16 or 17-year-old does not have parental consent to marry
  5. Lack of capacity, such as having mental incapacity, being under force or duress, or being defrauded

Q: How Long Do You Have to Get an Annulment in Illinois?

A: How long you have to get an annulment in Illinois depends on the reason the marriage is invalid. An annulment is based on specific reasons, each of which has a time limit:

  1. For lack of capacity annulments, 90 days after the petitioner learned of the incapacity
  2. For impotency annulments, one year after the petitioner learned of the condition
  3. For underage annulments, any time prior to both parties turning 18

An annulment cannot be petitioned for after either party has died.

Q: How Do You Prove a Marriage Is Void?

A: To prove a marriage is void or invalid, you must present evidence that shows the marriage meets the criteria for annulment. This may vary based on the reason. If the annulment is based on bigamy, a prior and still-valid marriage certificate may be presented. If the annulment is based on an underage spouse or incest, birth certificates may be sufficient evidence. Medical information or witness statements could also be useful.

An attorney could help review your case for an annulment and obtain the relevant evidence.

Q: How Can I Get a Quick Divorce in Illinois?

A: The fastest form of divorce in Illinois is a joint simplified divorce. In order to qualify, you must meet several requirements, including:

  1. Waiving the right to spousal support or not requiring financial support
  2. Living separately and apart for six months or agreeing to waive this requirement
  3. Married for less than eight years
  4. Having no children
  5. Owning no real estate

The next fastest type is an uncontested divorce, where both spouses agree to all the terms of their separation agreement outside of court.

Legal Support During the Dissolution or Invalidation of Your Marriage

The skilled attorneys at Stange Law Firm can help you determine the right steps to end your marriage. Contact our firm today.