Can I Get My Marriage Annulled?

There is often the misconception that if a marriage only lasted a few weeks or months, that a couple can easily get their marriage annulled, or in other words, invalidated.  An annulment would mean that, in the eyes of the law, your marriage never existed.

Illinois law does allow for annulment in certain circumstances, although it is wholly unrelated to the amount of time you were married.  The law states that marriage could be annulled if one of the parties committed a fraud that went to the very essence of the marriage contract.  Louis v. Louis, 124 Ill. App. 2d 325, 328 (1970).  Furthermore, “it must be shown that the fraud was of such a nature as to vitiate the actual consent of the defrauded party.”  Wolfe v. Wolfe, 62 Ill. App. 3d 498, 501 (1978).  Specifically, the courts have clarified that “false representations as to fortune, character and social standing are not essential elements of the marriage, and that “it is contrary to public policy to annul a marriage for fraud or misrepresentations as to personal qualities.” Bielby v. Bielby, 333 Ill. 478, 484 (1929).

As a result, the fact that you realized that your spouse lied about his income or key elements of his character, unless it was a fraud relating to the marriage, it will not be annulled.

A court recently heard a case where the husband lied about his previous marriages to his current spouse.  In In re the Marriage of Igene, 12 D 530916, the husband had actually committed bigamy with two of his prior spouses, as he married them prior to divorcing the other.  However, with the spouse in which the litigation was involved, he had managed to wait to legally marry her, although a religious wedding ceremony was held, until he had divorced his prior spouse.  The wife was an immigrant from Africa and, in the process of applying for her green card through her husband, was informed by an Immigration Officer that her husband may have prior marriages that were not fully disclosed in the application.  Her husband claimed it was identity theft, but the wife, through her own efforts, discovered he had been married to three other women previously, and had committed bigamy with two of them.

However, he had not committed bigamy with this wife as he had divorced his previous wife prior to making the marriage legal.  As a result, there was no fraud relating to this marriage except for his failure to disclose the number of prior marriages.  That, in and of itself, the court held, was not enough to annul the marriage.  The trial court had actually granted the annulment, and the appellate court reversed that decision.

As you can see, getting a marriage annulled is not easy.  Even with the egregious facts of Igene, the court felt those facts were not sufficient.  Consult with an attorney first if there are enough facts for an annulment.  Absent an annulment, you will have to proceed through the normal divorce route which may or may not include dividing some of your assets.

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