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Unlawful Marriages in Illinois

Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyIn June 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that effectively legalized same-sex marriages across the country. The decision put to rest decades of debate over certain restrictions that some states maintained in regard to regulating the institution of marriage. The Supreme Court’s ruling, however, did not open the door for any and all couples wishing to marry. Each state, including Illinois, still maintains a series of laws that dictate who is and who is not eligible to enter into a marriage. Under Illinois law, an unlawful or prohibited marriage is one of the few situations in which an annulment may be granted.

What Is an Annulment?

In simple terms, an annulment is a legal acknowledgment that a particular marriage is invalid. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) refers to an annulment as a declaration of the invalidity of the marriage. There are four basic grounds which an annulment may be granted:

  • One spouse lacked the ability to consent to the marriage due to disability, the influence of drugs or alcohol, or coercion;
  • One spouse is not physically capable of consummating the marriage through sexual intercourse and the other spouse was unaware of the issue prior to marriage;
  • One spouse was under age 18 and did not have parental or court approval to marry; or
  • The marriage was prohibited or unlawful.

What Types of Marriages Are Prohibited?

The IMDMA goes on to specify what constitutes a prohibited marriage. A marriage is considered unlawful and, therefore, prohibited, if:

  • Either spouse is currently married to another person. Civil unions and other similar legally recognized relationships would also make the marriage unlawful;
  • The parties are an ancestor and a descendant, by blood or adoption;
  • The parties are siblings, by blood or adoption;
  • The parties are an uncle or aunt and a nephew or niece, by blood or adoption; or
  • The parties are cousins of the first degree.

The law does permit marriages between first cousins in two situations. If the cousins are both age 50 or older, the marriage is not prohibited. The marriage is also lawful if one of the parties is unable to have children, and the condition is verified by a medical professional.

It is relatively rare for a prohibited marriage to actually take place, especially with so much family history available on the internet and other resources. In most cases, unlawful marriages are prevented by the requirement for a couple to obtain a marriage license. If such a marriage does occur, however—either due to fraud or a lack of available information at the time of the marriage—an annulment is the most common course of action.

Preparing for Marriage

If you are thinking about getting married, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. Whether you have questions about prenuptial agreements, prohibited marriages, or rights as a married person under the law, our team can help you find the answers. Schedule your free initial consultation today.


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