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Should I File for Divorce or Seek an Annulment?

Couples in Cook County who no longer want to be married sometimes want to know whether they should seek a divorce or an annulment. People often think that an annulment is preferable to a divorce for different reasons; sometimes those reasons are based on the person’s religion, but a preference for an annulment can also arise from concerns about the social stigma of divorce. Can a person choose whether to get an annulment or a divorce?

In short, anyone who is eligible for an annulment is not eligible for a divorce, and vice versa. To be clear, a marriage can only be annulled when it is invalid in the first place. Anyone in a legally valid marriage who wants to end the marriage will need to file for divorce, which is known under Illinois law as a “proceeding for the dissolution of marriage.”

Understanding Annulment, or the Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage

The grounds for “declaration of invalidity” of marriage, which used to be known as annulment under Illinois law, make it different from divorce. As we said above, annulling a marriage is not the same as getting a divorce, and couples simply do not have the option of choosing between an annulment or a divorce. Rather, an annulment is only possible when the marriage was invalid in the first place. According to the statute, an annulment is appropriate under one of the following statutory conditions:

  • A party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage because of mental incapacity, the influence of alcohol, the influence of drugs, or the influence of another substance;
  • A party was forced into the marriage by duress or fraud;
  • A party is physically unable to consummate the marriage, and the other party did not know about it beforehand;
  • A party was aged 16 or 17 and did not have approval to marry; and/or
  • Marriage is prohibited by law.

There are many different types of situations that may allow for an annulment, including but not limited to the following:

  • Marriage occurred because one or both of the parties got extremely intoxicated prior to entering into the marriage;
  • One of the parties threatened the other party’s safety, health, or well-being if that party did not agree to the marriage;
  • Parties are closely related to one another; or
  • One or both of the parties already was legally married to someone else.

The party seeking the annulment must prove grounds for a declaration of invalidity of marriage.

Requirements for a Divorce in Illinois

Unlike an annulment or declaration of invalidity of marriage, there are no “grounds” that need to be proven for divorce. Moreover, divorce or dissolution of marriage is not a way to dissolve an invalid marriage but rather a way of dissolving a legal relationship.

Since Illinois is what is known as a “no-fault” state in terms of divorce, the party seeking a divorce does not need to prove grounds. Instead, the court only needs to find that the couple’s irreconcilable differences make the marriage impossible to continue. The court presumes that this requirement has been met when a lawfully married couple lives separate and apart for six months or more.

Learn More from a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions about dissolving your marriage, you should discuss your case with a Chicago divorce lawyer today. Contact Arami Law for more information.



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