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Annulment, Divorce, or Legal Separation FAQ
1. What is the difference between Annulments, Legal Separations, and Divorces?

Annulment: A Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage Petition seeks a judicial ruling that a valid marriage never took place, that the marriage is not legally valid and that the marriage does not legally exist.

Legal Separation: A Legal Separation Petition seeks a judicial ruling that one spouse should pay another spouse child support or spousal maintenance, and distribution of property, without seeking to dissolve the marriage.

Divorce: A Dissolution of Marriage Petition seeks a judicial ruling that severs or dissolves a valid marriage.

2. What are the grounds for an Annulment?

The grounds for an Annulment include the following:

  • Consanguinity: The parties are first cousins or closer.
  • Bigamy.
  • Age: One party was under the age of legal consent.
  • Mental Incapacity: Due to intoxicating, narcotic substances or mental illness, one party was incapable of comprehending the nature and consequence of the ceremony.
  • Fraud: Fraudulent representations and concealment of specific facts by one party that go to the essence of the marriage;
  • Physical Incapacity: Sexual incapacity of one party that was unknown by the other party. Fraudulent misrepresentation by the incapacitated party is unnecessary.
  • Duress: Factors such as age, mental attitude, physical power, and alleged applications by force must be considered in determining whether one party was forced or coerced by the other party into marriage.

Generally, one who continues to cohabitate, one who ratifies, and one who fails to bring a claim for annulment within 90 days may not assert a claim for mental incapacity, fraud, physical incapacity, or duress.

3. What are grounds for Legal Separation?

For Legal Separation, one need not establish grounds. One need only establish that the parties are in fact living apart through no fault of the party who is filing for Legal Separation.

4. What are the grounds for divorce?

Fault grounds for divorce in Illinois include impotency, bigamy, adultery, desertion for one year, habitual drunkenness or drug addiction for two years, an attempt to take the life of the other, physical or mental cruelty, conviction of a felony or other infamous crime, infecting the other with a sexually transmitted disease.

No fault divorce is available if the parties have lived separate and apart for two years, or for six months by agreement, and irreconcilable differences cause the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.


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Spouses can file for a no-fault divorce in Illinois, as long as they have lived separate and apart for at least two years and state that irreconcilable differences ended their marriage. This two-year separation period may be waived "upon written stipulation of both spouses, filed with the court."
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