Chicago Annulment Lawyer
Annulment is an aspect of family law that does not occur with much frequency. Often, people who seek an annulment actually do not qualify for one, and even those who are eligible for an annulment may be better off filing for a divorce instead. An annulment does have its place in limited circumstances, however. Below we discuss what an annulment does and doesn’t do. If you are needing help deciding whether annulment or divorce is right for you or if you need to respond to a court filing, contact our experienced Chicago annulment lawyers today.
What Is Annulment?
A divorce is the official dissolution of a valid marriage. An annulment, on the other hand, is the judicial recognition that a purported marriage was never valid to begin with. If you find you are party to an invalid marriage, it’s important to remove the impediment so that you are lawfully married or have the marriage annulled to establish your rights, including your right to marry another person in the future.
Annulment is rare in Illinois and is limited to the following situations:
- A party lacked the capacity to enter into a legal marriage.
- A party was mentally incapacitated at the time of marriage due to factors such as an intellectual disability or intoxication by alcohol or drugs.
- A party agreed to the marriage due to the threat or use of force.
- The marriage occurred under duress; the person was coerced into marriage.
- A party agreed to marriage under false pretenses, or some fraud that goes to the “essentials of the marriage.”
- A party was unable to physically consummate the marriage and concealed that fact from the other party.
- Bigamy. A party was already married to another at the time of the marriage.
- Incest. The parties were too closely related to lawfully marry under Illinois law. These relationships include ancestors and descendants (parent and child, grandparent and grandchild) or siblings related by half or whole blood or adoption; aunts/uncles to nephews/nieces related by half or whole blood; and first cousins unless both parties are at least 50 years old or one party has been medically certified as sterile.
- A party was under 18 years old and did not have the approval to marry from their parent or guardian or a court.
To qualify for an annulment, an action must be brought in a timely fashion. For annulments based on mental incapacity, force, fraud or duress, the action must be brought within 90 days of discovering the grounds for annulment. If the annulment is based on lack of consummation, the action must be brought within one year after learning of the partner’s impotency. An annulment based on a party being underage must be initiated before the party turns legal age. In cases of bigamy, the action can basically be brought at any time, with some exceptions.
Failing to raise the annulment issue in the required time frame or ratifying the marriage can render some otherwise invalid marriages valid. In the case of a bigamous marriage, if the couple continues to cohabit after the bigamous spouse divorces their prior spouse, the second marriage will be deemed valid without the couple having to remarry.
An annulment is only available in limited circumstances. If available, though, an annulment could end the relationship without getting a court involved in issues such as property division and alimony/maintenance. If this idea appeals to you, you might want to pursue an annulment, but if the division of property or support does matter, then you would want to seek a divorce instead. Other reasons people might choose an annulment are that it can be faster than a divorce and it does not leave behind any stigma that some people feel about divorce, whether for religious or other reasons.
Issues in Annulment
Annulment actions are typically brought fairly soon after a marriage when the grounds for annulment are discovered, but often the issue does not arise until the couple has already acquired significant property together or even had children. Issues of property division, child custody, and support will need to be figured out, either by the parties working through their attorneys outside of court or in litigation. It is important to note that Illinois law clearly states that children born during the marriage will be considered legitimate even if the marriage itself wasn’t valid. Both parents will be financially responsible to support the children and entitled to custody and visitation as worked out between them or ordered by the court.
For these reasons, it’s critical to get the help of a seasoned divorce lawyer if you or your spouse are considering annulment. The family law attorneys at Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC can guide you through the process of obtaining an annulment while making sure your rights are protected and that you are adequately represented in any issues such as property division or support.
Contact Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC Today
If you are considering annulment or responding to a court action filed by your spouse, or if you need to understand your rights and know whether an annulment is appropriate in your case, Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC can help. Call our experienced Chicago annulment lawyers today.