If you are thinking about or in the process of separation from a partner, you may be wondering what the difference is between a divorce and an annulment. If you are filing for a divorce, then both you and your partner are in agreement that your marriage was entirely legitimate. 

Annulment is for specific situations where the marriage was never valid to begin with. Read more below about the differences between divorce and annulment, and determine which is appropriate for your situation. If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Schaumburg, Illinois, they will be able to determine the appropriate course of action, and aid you in taking the proper steps.

What is a separation?
In Illinois, a separation is required before a divorce case can proceed. Though many states require the couple to live in completely separate residences, Illinois only requires that the couple has established two independent lives. This means that they may continue to live in the same house, but must have separate rooms, separate routines, and very clearly are living separately from the other. There is a two year separation requirement in Illinois for a no-fault divorce, but if each party waives this clause, or it is a fault-based divorce (see below), the divorce may be allowed to finalize sooner. 

What is a Divorce?
A divorce is a legal process that ends a marriage. The court acknowledges that the marriage was valid, that there are legitimate grounds to end the marriage, and creates a document that dissolves the legal partnership. There are two types of divorce in Illinois:

No-Fault Divorce
In the case of a no-fault divorce, both parties agree to the termination of the marriage without blame. This is the result of irreconcilable differences, or simply that there is no love in the partnership anymore.

Fault-Based Divorce
Unlike a no-fault divorce, a fault-based divorce is the result of a serious violation of the marriage contract. This may include spousal abuse, infidelity, drug or alcohol dependencies, abandonment, and more. Under a fault-based divorce, the party filing for the divorce may be able to waive the separation period and move straight into the divorce proceedings. 

What is an annulment?
An annulment is very different from a divorce, and only applicable in specific situations. In the event of an annulment, the court verifies that the marriage was never legitimate, and therefore the marriage never existed. Whereas in a divorce, the marriage contract is withdrawn, an annulment completely erases the marriage. Below are the different circumstances that would allow for an annulment:

Religious Grounds for Annulment
In Catholicism, a marriage is considered a sacrament, and therefore is irreversible by a divorce. If a Catholic couple, joined by the Catholic sacrament of marriage, wishes to terminate their bond, they must file for an annulment

Legal Grounds for Annulment
There are a variety of legal grounds for annulment, where the court deems that the marriage was never valid. 

Lack of Consent
If the court determines that one, or both, of the parties was mentally incapable to agree to the marriage, or that they were forced, an annulment is legitimate.

If the court determines that the marriage was incestuous, then it will be annulled.

If one of the parties is incurably impotent, and the other partner was not aware of this before entering the marriage, this can be grounds for an annulment as the marriage was never consummated.

In this case, one or both of the parties misrepresents their situation, such as entering the marriage under a false name, already being married, or other fraudulent situations.

In an annulment based on concealment, there were major details that one party did not disclose. This could include, but is not limited to, a criminal record or other information that was not shared with their spouse.

In the case of a misunderstanding annulment, there would be an irreparable misunderstanding between parties such as the desire to have children or something similarly important in a marriage.

Should I file for a Divorce?
If the grounds for your marriage were legitimate, but you have determined that you are at a point that the marriage can not, or will not, be repaired, you may file for a divorce. Depending on your state, there are a variety of steps you must take in order to officially begin a divorce proceeding, such as a legal separation. Consult with a divorce attorney to determine the steps you must take.

Will I be able to collect alimony after an annulment?
Since an annulment means that a marriage never legally happened, you will be unable to collect alimony. In a divorce, there is an option for alimony because the court acknowledges that the marriage happened, and the involved parties had a legal life together that is not easily dissolved. 

Next Steps For a Divorce Or Annulment
Whether you are planning to file for an annulment or a divorce, it is beneficial to consult a divorce lawyer. Both situations have the possibility of complications, and the counsel of a professional will help you determine the best steps to take, and guide you through the legal process. Many divorce attorneys offer initial consultations, which is a great opportunity to discuss the details of your situation, the best options available to you, and the appropriate course of action based on this information.