Illinois Marriage Annulment vs. Divorce: What are the differences?

Understanding the Legal Termination of Marriage in Illinois

When a marriage comes to an end, couples in Illinois have two primary legal avenues: annulment and divorce. While both result in the dissolution of a marriage, they differ fundamentally in their legal implications, processes, and the resulting status of the marriage.

Annulment in Illinois: Erasing the Marriage

An annulment, also known as a 'declaration of invalidity of marriage' in Illinois, is a legal decree that effectively erases the marriage as if it never existed. Annulments are granted on specific grounds that must exist at the time of the marriage. These grounds include:

Annulment cases are relatively rare due to these strict criteria. For instance, historical references show that King Henry VIII sought an annulment from Catherine of Aragon on religious grounds—not an option available within Illinois law.

Divorce in Illinois: Legally Ending the Marriage

Divorce, on the other hand, is the legal process of ending a valid marriage. In Illinois, divorces can be either 'fault' or 'no-fault', but recent changes in state law have led to a preference for no-fault divorces, where irreconcilable differences are cited as the reason for dissolution. Unlike annulments where marriages are treated as if they never happened, divorces acknowledge that a legal marital relationship existed.

During divorce proceedings, issues such as property division, child custody and support, and alimony must be addressed. For example, if a couple acquired assets during their marriage, a divorce decree would detail how those assets should be divided between them.

Differences Between Annulment and Divorce in Illinois

The key differences between annulment and divorce in Illinois include:

In conclusion, while both annulment and divorce offer legal solutions to end a marital relationship in Illinois, they cater to different scenarios based on factors such as reasons for ending the marriage and how you wish your marital status to be reflected post-separation. It's essential for individuals considering either option to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can provide guidance tailored to their unique circumstances.