What is the difference between annulment and divorce?

Couples considering separation should know the difference between annulment and divorce.

Many married couples in Illinois nowadays find that for some reason or another, they don't want to remain legally bound together. For many, divorce is an option that serves their needs. However, sometimes, it may be the case that the marriage was never done properly in the first place. This could be because of new information that one spouse or both spouses have become aware of, or it may be something that both have been sitting on in the first place. In these situations, it may be more appropriate for the couple to seek an annulment.

Two different procedures

Unlike a divorce, which is a legally binding form of separation that acknowledges the couple as having been married before, an annulment is when the court rules that a marriage will be viewed as never having taken place. While they can be filed at the same time, an annulment and a divorce are two separate types of procedures in the eyes of the law. Getting this done is different from obtaining a divorce, because it requires a petition be filed to the court containing the grounds for the dissolution.

An invalid marriage

The Illinois General Assembly actually refers to this as a judgment that states the marriage is invalid. In order for someone to be granted a declaration of invalidity, one or more of the following factors must be proved:

  • Parental consent was never obtained and one of the persons was 17 or 16 years old
  • Fraud
  • Force
  • One person is mentally incapacitated and therefore, unable to consent
  • One of the parties was under the influence of drugs or alcohol

If a person did not know that the party was not able to consummate the marriage due to a physical incapacity, that person may be granted an invalidity declaration.

Religious law

One way in which annulments differ from divorces is that the church that married the couple may have to deem that the marriage was not valid before that person can remarry in the church. The process may vary from one religion to the next. For example, in the Catholic Church, a marriage must be reviewed by a church tribunal to determine if it was in violation of church law. If the marriage is deemed invalid, it will be granted something called a declaration of nullity.

Couples in Lake Zurich who are dissatisfied with their marriages may find that they want to pursue a legal form of dissolution. They may be unsure whether it is more appropriate to pursue an annulment or a divorce. Those who seek advice before they take action may benefit from the advice of an experienced family law attorney in the area.