When a marriage ends very quickly, it is not unusual for the spouses to assume that their best option is to have the marriage annulled. Annulment is seen as a superior alternative to divorce – an inexpensive, quick, and easy way for the spouses to go their separate ways.
However, the reality is that the process is quite difficult. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act lays out the rules for getting a declaration of invalidity of marriage (which is the legal term in Illinois for an annulment.) The standards are quite strict.
There are only four ways that a marriage can be declared invalid in Illinois:
- If, at the time the marriage was performed, one of the parties lacked the capacity to consent to it – due to mental incapacity or infirmity, or intoxication, or because they were induced to enter into the marriage because of force, duress, or fraud;
- If one of the parties lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage – and the other party was unaware of this at the time the marriage was performed;
- If one of the parties was 16 or 17 at the time the marriage was performed, and did not have the consent of a parent or guardian; or
- If the marriage was prohibited by law.
There are also strict time deadlines. In order to have a marriage invalidated due to one (or more) of the reasons laid out in number one, then one of the parties – or the legal representative of the party who lacked the capacity to consent – must seek a declaration of invalidity within 90 days of the marriage taking place.
If you are seeking to have a marriage invalidated due to reason two (because the other party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage), then you must seek a declaration of invalidity within a year of the date when you learned about the other party’s condition.
In order to have a marriage invalidated due to reason three (because of a party being underage), the underage party, or his/her parent or guardian, must seek a declaration of invalidity before the time when the underage party would be able to get married without needing consent from a parent or guardian.
A marriage can be invalidated due to reason four (because the marriage was prohibited by law) at any time, up until three years following the death of the first party to die. The declaration of invalidity can be sought by either party, or by a child of either party, or by the State’s Attorney, or – if one of the parties was a bigamist – by that party’s spouse.
If none of the reasons above apply to your marriage, and/or the deadline has expired, then your marriage cannot be invalidated, and you should consider a divorce.
Let Our Family Law Attorneys Help You
If you have any questions about invalidation, or about divorce, you can contact the attorneys at Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. in Wheaton, Illinois, who have handled a wide variety of matrimonial cases.