In the legal world, as in many other areas of life, people commonly mistake or misuse words. Colloquialisms and casual use can lead to a broad misunderstanding of what a word actually means. This can cause confusion and other problems in a myriad of situations.

Many people use divorce and annulment to mean nearly the same thing. In reality, the two processes are starkly different. If you are considering divorce or annulment, it is essential that you understand the difference. That way, you can make empowered decisions about your future.

What Is a Divorce?

Although many people understand divorce as a general concept, it is important in this context to understand some details. Divorce is the process by which a married couple separates their lives. They split marital assets, determine child custody agreements, and negotiate child and spousal support. When the divorce is finalized, the marriage is dissolved, but there is still a record of it in the state system. If a person wishes to remarry, they must disclose whether they have been previously married.

In most scenarios, when a married couple breaks up, they get divorced rather than seeking an annulment.

What Is an Annulment?

Annulments are only appropriate in a finite number of situations. All of them occur in scenarios where the essence of a marriage is based on fraud, false information, or key omissions. In these cases, the marriage should never have happened because the legal criteria were not met.

Reasons for annulment include:

  • One party was under the age of 18 and did not have parental permission.
  • One party was under the age of 15, regardless of parental permission, at the time of the wedding.
  • One or both parties were under duress at the time of the marriage.
  • There is a permanent, incurable inability to have sexual intercourse (impotency) that was not disclosed to the other partner before the marriage.
  • One party was already married at the time of the marriage (bigamy).
  • There was a lack of consent from one or both parties.

There are other reasons that a marriage may be eligible for annulment. An attorney can help you discern whether an annulment or a divorce is right for your situation.

An annulment is different from a divorce. It voids the marriage altogether, rather than just ending it. In an annulment, it will be as if the marriage never occurred at all.

Consent for Annulment

In a divorce scenario, both spouses must agree to the terms of the divorce before it can be finalized. However, in an annulment, the criteria simply need to be met for the process to occur. There does not need to be consent on the part of either party.

Annulments have a shorter window than divorces do. Although a couple can get divorced at any time, annulments are limited. In some cases, you have 90 days from the day you discovered the reason for the annulment to file. In other situations, you have one year from the date of your marriage to file for an annulment. Under yet other circumstances, there is no time limit on the annulment process, and you may file for one at any time.

Hiring an Attorney

It is to your benefit to hire an attorney, whether you are seeking a divorce or an annulment. Legal counsel can help you navigate either process. They can also ensure that your rights are protected throughout. If you are seeking an annulment based on criminal activities, an attorney may also be able to help you navigate additional charges or cases if needed.

If an annulment is not possible in your situation, you may still seek a divorce if you wish. Some situations are not eligible for annulment, but the spouses are able to separate under other terms. The record of this will not be removed.


Q: Does Cheating Count as Fraud in an Annulment?

A: No. Cheating is not grounds for annulment in Illinois, but it can lead to divorce if you so choose. In fact, Illinois is a no-fault state for divorce. Therefore, you do not need to meet certain criteria to seek a dissolution of marriage under Illinois divorce law. However, unlike an annulment, a divorce will remain on your record. You may have to disclose previous marriages for certain government documents.

Q: What Is an Inability to Consent to a Marriage?

A: An inability to consent is grounds for an annulment of marriage. An inability to consent may mean that one party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If this was the case at the time of the marriage, it would make consent impossible. It can also mean that one party was mentally or physically incapacitated at the time of the wedding. They would therefore be unable to consent. Marriage is a binding contract as well as a romantic union. The law requires all participants to give proper consent.

Q: How Soon After Marriage Can I Seek an Annulment?

A: You can seek an annulment as soon as you discover that something was illegal about your marriage. In some cases, this may occur in the days following the discovery that one party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In other cases, it may be weeks or years later if you discover that your spouse is still married to someone else. The timeline depends on your case, but it is typical to seek an annulment as soon as possible.

Q: Do I Need an Attorney for an Annulment?

A: Although legally it is not required, it is absolutely in your interest to hire an attorney for an annulment. These cases may seem simple. However, they are often more complicated than anticipated. Lots of annulments require work and effort to complete, something that your attorney can guide you through. Your attorney can also help to argue your case if the reason for the annulment is not obvious or easily proven.

Contact Stange Law Firm in Metro East, IL

Our team at Stange Law Firm is here to help you with your divorce or annulment scenario. Contact Stange Law Firm today for more.