In Illinois, there are two ways to end a marriage: by an annulment or by a divorce. A divorce recognizes that a valid marriage existed and that it has now ended. An annulment cancels a marriage and legally declares that there was never a valid marriage in the first place.
In Illinois, an annulment is called a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage and a divorce is called a Dissolution of Marriage. Both have specific rules governing them that are found in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Both annulment and divorce accomplish the same goal: they end a marriage. However, an annulment is rarely used because the grounds for an annulment are quite difficult to prove.
Pursuant to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act a Judge may only grant an annulment if:
1. One of the parties lacked the capacity to enter into the marriage either because of mental incapacity or infirmity or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances; or
2. One of the parties is physically incapable of consummating the marriage and the other party was not aware of the physical incapacity at the time of the marriage; or
3. One of the parties was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the marriage and did not have the consent of his or her parents or guardian or a Judge; or
4. One of the parties was induced to enter into the marriage by force or duress or by fraud involving the essentials of marriage; or
5. The marriage is prohibited.
In addition to the above grounds for an annulment, Illinois imposes strict time limits as to when an annulment must be initiated in the Court system. These deadlines will be enforced by a Judge and therefore they must be adhered to and followed. With the exception of a prohibited marriage, each of the grounds has a specific time set forth in the statute as to when a Petition for an Annulment must be filed with the Circuit Court Clerk.