In Illinois, some people are able to have their marriages declared invalid if they meet specific statutory grounds for this procedure and if it is sought within the statutory deadlines. Not every marriage can be ended in this manner, however. For many people, the only option is getting a divorce.
The grounds that can give rise to a declaration of invalidity are very specific under the applicable statute. People can seek a declaration of invalidity, formerly known as an annulment, if they lacked the ability to consent to the marriage. A lack of capacity argument can be based on being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the marriage, having a mental disability or cognitive limitation or if the party married due to force, coercion, duress or fraudulent inducement. Under this section, either the party or his or her guardian must file for the declaration no later than 90 days after he or she received knowledge of the specific ground.
If a party was unable to perform sexually in order to consummate the marriage, a declaration of invalidity can be granted if it is requested within one year. If a person married when he or she was 16 or 17 and did not have parental consent, he or she may also obtain such a declaration if the parent or guardian of the minor seeks it prior to the person's reaching age 18. Finally, if the marriage was a forbidden one, courts can grant a declaration of invalidity at any time not exceeding three years following one partner's death.
It can be difficult to establish the grounds necessary for a declaration of invalidity in Illinois. People who believe they may be eligible should seek the advice of a family law attorney as soon as possible after they encounter information leading them to believe they may have sufficient grounds in order to meet the statutory deadlines.
Source: Illinois General Assembly, "Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage", November 10, 2014