Just Married—and Wishing You Weren’t

Just Married—and Wishing You Weren’t

When the reality of your recent “I do’s” are making you wish you didn’t, what then? Going through a divorce is always an option, but what about getting the marriage annulled, and starting over? When is that a possibility?

In Illinois, the law refers to annulment as “declaration of invalidity of marriage.” Basically, it is a legal proceeding that, rather than ending the marriage like a divorce, it says the marriage was never valid in the first place, and should not have been recognized. Frequently, this question is asked by couples that have been married a short time and want out: why do I have to get a divorce—can’t the marriage just be annulled…it never felt like a real marriage anyway?

For these and other couples looking for an annulment in Illinois, the scenarios where it is allowed are fairly limited. The law sets out specific situations in which an annulment is possible, and time restrictions as to when you have to begin the process, or lose your opportunity. A marriage may be annulled if:

• the husband or wife was not able to legally consent to marriage. In these situations, the supposed consent was affected by a mental disability, or the influence of drugs or alcohol, or by some force or fraud.
• the husband or wife was not able to consummate the marriage, and the other did not know that at the time they married;
• the husband or wife was under 18, and did not have consent or approval to marry;
• the couple was involved in a marriage that was not legally allowed.

Depending on the reason for needing the annulment, the time to request it can be as short as 90 days from when the circumstances that allowed it became known.

Based on these strict criteria, it is clear that the vast majority of marriages that break up, end in divorce and not annulment. The requirements for being granted a divorce are not nearly as stringent. While it may seem as though a marriage that only lasted a few weeks should be much easier to annul, and not have to go through a divorce, that is not the case. And in fact, if the marriage was short, the issues between the spouses may not be too complex, especially if the couple does not have children.

Most commonly annulment is a religious term, particularly where it becomes may be relevant to remarry. But in the Illinois family courts, unless you can prove that you fit within one of the specific categories for an annulment, divorce will be your only option.

On another note, some friends have asked me over the 10+ years of running my business, what is the shortest marriage I’ve even seen? Years ago the answer would have been a month. About two years ago I got a call from someone looking to divorce after only being married for one week. About six months ago I received a call from a woman that wanted to annul her marriage. I asked her when she got married. Her answer was “that morning.” I don’t think that record will ever be beat.
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