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Legal Separation, Annulment, and Divorce: What Is the Difference?

Posted on in Divorce

Naperville divorce and legal separation lawyerMarriage is a legal union between two people, but when one or both of those people no longer wish to be in the marriage, they may feel it is necessary to get a divorce. However, there are other steps couples may take besides divorce, depending on their situation. In some cases, couples may choose legal separation or annulment. If you are considering ending your marriage, it is important to know the difference between legal separation, annulment, and divorce. 

Legal Separation

Couples who are considering a permanent split may separate for a time if they are trying to work through their differences. However, this is not the same as a legal separation. Legal separation is an agreement or decision that is specifically put in place by the court. It outlines the rights and obligations of each person in the relationship until further action is taken. Legal separation is not necessary if couples can agree on their rights and obligations while they are separated, but it can be a helpful step to take in case a disagreement arises over issues such as child custody, visitation, or property rights.


Annulment, also known as a judgment of invalidity, is the legal process of declaring that a marriage is not valid, essentially saying that the marriage never existed at all. A marriage may be annulled in Illinois if one partner did not consent to the marriage, was already married to another person, or was under the age of 18.

Different reasons for annulment also have different time limits for when the marriage can be annulled. The time limit for annulment is 90 days from when the problem is discovered for the following:

  • One party was forced into the marriage.
  • One party was mentally impaired or incapacitated (including being under the influence of drugs or alcohol) at the time of the marriage.

If a child gets married before they turn 18, that marriage can be annulled as long as the child is still under 18. If it is discovered that a spouse is married to another person, there is no time limit for the annulment. 


For most people who plan to end their marriage, divorce is the best option. Divorce is the legal method of saying that the marriage existed, and that it has ended. The only grounds for divorce that are recognized in Illinois are irreconcilable differences, which are defined as differences which have caused the marriage to break down to the point where all attempts at reconciliation have failed, and any future attempts at reconciliation would not be successful. Spouses who live “separate and apart” for at least six months are presumed to meet the requirements for irreconcilable differences in the eyes of the court.

Contact a Wheaton Divorce Attorney

If you are looking for a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney to help you with your legal separation, annulment, or divorce, Anderson & Associates, P.C. can provide you with the legal guidance you need. Our DuPage County divorce lawyers can help you navigate the complexities of the divorce process. Contact us today at 630-653-9400 for an initial consultation.





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