The Chicago Family Law Blog

Can You Get Your Marriage Annulled?

Divorce can be expensive and complicated so having your marriage annulled may sound like a better option, but is that legal?

Annulment is one way to end a marriage, but it’s not very common when compared to divorce. A marriage can be ended for any reasons, or none at all, but you need to fit into a certain category if you want to get a civil annulment.

If you’ve had children during your marriage, annulment is going to be difficult. But for those who decide to call it quits before kids, you might qualify.

Before we go any further, it’s helpful to unpack the different definitions of annulment.

Just like you get married in the eyes of the church and the eyes of the state, an annulment can be either religious or civil. What happens in your place of worship with respect to annulment isn’t something we can help with.

What we can help with is civil annulment. A divorce is the termination of a marriage but an annulment dissolves a marriage as if it had legally never existed.

That means you don’t need to worry as much about property division and alimony. But to get those benefits, your marriage must qualify.

To be granted an annulment, you need to prove to the judge that the marriage was never real in the first place. There are several ways to do that.

One way is to show that the parties didn’t intentionally enter into the marriage. That could be due to duress, insanity, intoxication, fraud, or if one party was a minor at the time of the marriage.

What all these categories lack is legal consent. To consent, a person must know what he or she is getting into, and agree to it.

Without that understanding and assent, the marriage is invalid.

A marriage can also be annulled if it was never legal in the first place, such as if one person was already married or the spouses are too closely related. Lack of ability to consummate the marriage can also be grounds for annulment.

Some states put limits on how long after marriage you can get an annulment, and Illinois has a few.

The request for annulment must be brought within one year if the marriage can’t be consummated. If the request is based on lack of ability to consent, it must be within 90 days.

For marriages where one person is underage, request for annulment can be any time before that person reaches the age of consent.

If that applies to you, talk to your lawyer about an annulment rather than a divorce.

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