Ending a marriage is an emotionally challenging and complex process. The process can also take a significant amount of time—dissolution of marriage can take months or even years in the most complicated cases. However, not all marriages qualify for typical divorce proceedings. In these cases, annulment may be the better option. Annulment is similar to divorce in that it formally ends a marriage. However, annulment is quite different because it treats the marriage as if it never existed in the first place.

It can be easy to conflate religious annulment with the legal process of annulment. However, while some religions require previously married individuals to annul their past marriages within the church to marry again, this is different than the legal process of annulment. If you believe your marriage is invalid for any reason, speak to an experienced Bloomington, IL family law attorney to learn more about the legal annulment process. Your attorney can help you determine whether you qualify for an annulment under Illinois state law.

What Is Annulment?

When a married couple divorces, the courts add to the record of their previous marriage with an official record of their divorce. As a result, for legal purposes or when asked under oath, divorced individuals must answer affirmatively that they have been married previously. Annulment works differently because it formally nullifies the marriage’s very existence. While divorce ends a legally binding, official marriage, annulment declares that a marriage was never valid in the first place.

Illinois is somewhat unique when it comes to civil annulment because the state does not uphold any specific statutes or laws pertaining specifically to “annulment.” Instead, Illinois state law refers to “invalidity.” Therefore, if you wish to pursue annulment in Bloomington, IL, it is crucial to understand the process of obtaining a Judgment of Invalidity.

How to Qualify for a Judgment of Invalidity

It is important to note that Illinois judges rarely grant Judgments of Invalidity. State law requires a very compelling case for a judge to grant this type of judgment. First, you must prove adequate grounds for Invalidity, which must strictly adhere to one or more of the following guidelines:

  • Bigamy. If one spouse is already legally married to another person and enters another marriage, the second marriage is invalid. If you discover that your new spouse is already married to another person, the situation is justification to apply for a Judgment of Invalidity in Bloomington, IL.
  • Incest. State law prohibits marriage between blood relatives. Unfortunately, some people discover familial relationships with their spouses after they have already been married for some time. In the event a blood relationship is discovered between you and your spouse, you may apply for a Judgment of Invalidity under Illinois state law.
  • Underage marriage. It is legal for individuals aged 16 or 17 to marry in Illinois so long as they secure parental consent. However, if an individual marries under the age of 18 without parental consent, the marriage is invalid and qualifies for annulment.
  • Lack of capacity due to intoxication. There have been many references in popular culture to people having too much to drink and proceeding with a marriage despite intoxication. If one or both spouses was under the influence of an intoxicating substance when the marriage became official, it is possible to apply for annulment within 90 days of the marriage.
  • Lack of capacity due to mental illness or disability. Both spouses must possess the mental capacity to soundly agree to marry. If the marriage occurred while one spouse lacked capacity due to a disability or mental illness, there are valid grounds to apply for a Judgment of Invalidity.
  • Impotence. Married spouses must possess the physical capacity to consummate their marriage through sexual intercourse. If one spouse is unable to do so and fails to disclose this information to their spouse prior to marrying, it can affect separation. The other spouse may petition for a Judgment of Invalidity within one year of discovering their partner’s impotence.
  • Fraud. Any marriage that took place due to fraudulent information presented by one of the spouses can qualify for a Judgment of Invalidity. The petitioning party must provide proof of the fraud in question and make a sound argument as to why the fraud renders the marriage invalid. For example, if one spouse lied so they could marry and avoid deportation, this would likely qualify the other spouse to secure a Judgment of Invalidity under Illinois law.
  • Duress. Marrying spouses cannot marry under threat or duress. If you intend to pursue a Judgment of Invalidity on the grounds of duress, you have 90 days from the date of the marriage to file your petition with the Bloomington, IL family court.

These are the most cited grounds for annulment in Illinois. If you believe your marriage qualifies as invalid for these or any other reasons, it is essential to consult an experienced Bloomington, IL family law attorney as soon as possible.

Child Custody and Child Support Following Annulment

The vast majority of annulments occur within just a few months of marriage. However, it is possible in some cases for a couple to remain married for several years and even have children within an invalid marriage. Illinois state law specifically states that any children born to parents in an invalid marriage remain the lawful children of those parents. At this point, the issue of retroactivity comes into play.

In most cases involving Judgments of Invalidity, the judge will declare the Judgment of Invalidity retroactive, meaning it applies to the entirety of the marriage. Thus, the marriage in question was never valid at any point. If it is not retroactive, the Judgment of Invalidity applies from the date the judge grants it.

It is very rare for a judge to pursue non-retroactivity for a Judgment of Invalidity. This situation does pose legal challenges to parents because the court technically will not have the authority to determine child custody, child support, or visitation rights in the matter. Parents who receive Judgments of Invalidity must undergo separate legal proceedings to settle issues related to child custody and support.

Ultimately, annulment is a very complex issue in Illinois, especially for parents in an invalid marriage. If you believe your marriage is invalid and do not know what to expect from the family court system, contact an experienced Bloomington, IL family law attorney as soon as possible.