Annulment vs. Divorce: What is the Difference?

annulment, divorce, Illinois family law attorneyThe difference between annulment and divorce can seem minor, but it deals with a key component of a couple’s relationship: its validity. When a couple divorces, their legal marriage is over. When a couple obtains an annulment, their legal marriage never officially happened.

To be considered invalid and thus eligible for an annulment, a couple’s marriage must be found to violate the requirements for marriage outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

The Annulment Process

If your marriage is determined to be invalid, you may end it through the annulment process. This process varies from the divorce process in a few ways. Because you were never legally married, the court may divide your property as if you were merely a cohabiting couple. This means that you will retain any property that you held prior to the marriage. The court is also unlikely to award spousal maintenance for couples working through an annulment.

Any issues related to child custody and support are handled the same way that they are for divorcing couples. The court will do its best to put your child’s best interests first when developing these agreements for him or her.

What Makes a Marriage Invalid?

There are many reasons why a couple’s marriage may be deemed to be invalid. Some of these are only acceptable grounds for annulment if the couple files for annulment within 90 days of discovering the problem. This category of grounds includes:

  • If either spouse was mentally unable to consent to the marriage at the time it was performed. This could be because he or she was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, was physically ill, or was mentally ill; or
  • If either spouse was forced into the marriage, either through coercion or under threat of some type.

Other reasons why a couple may seek an annulment include:

  • If either spouse cannot have sexual intercourse. In such cases, the couple must seek an annulment within one year of their marriage;
  • If the couple finds out they are related by blood or adoption;
  • If either spouse was married to another person at the time the couple’s marriage was performed. This is known as bigamy and it is illegal in Illinois and the rest of the United States; or
  • If either spouse was under the age of 18 and did not have appropriate parental consent at the time the marriage was performed. If this is the case, the couple has until that spouse turns 18 to seek an annulment.

If you think your marriage may be invalid and you could be eligible for an annulment, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney to schedule your free legal consultation. We will review your case and help you determine if an annulment is appropriate for your situation. Call the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C., today for more information.

 

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