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Illinois Court Records

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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Illinois

In Illinois, divorce is the legal process of dissolving a valid marriage. Annulment, alternatively, is a declaration that the wedding itself was not legally valid and, therefore, terminated. Essentially, a marriage that has been annulled never was a marriage in the eyes of the law. Both divorce and annulment require grounds for legal dissolution. To file for either, it is recommended to hire a lawyer to aid in filing paperwork and establishing the grounds to present them to a judge in circuit court.

The state courts do not have a legal action called "annulment," but a "judgment of invalidity" is effectively the same as an annulment. Although possible, a judgment of invalidity may be more challenging to acquire in Illinois than a divorce.

What is an Illinois Divorce Decree?

There are three types of divorce records in Illinois: divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and full divorce records. Illinois divorce decrees hold information regarding a divorce, but do not include all the documents generated during the divorce process. A divorce decree states the names of the parties, the date, and the location of the divorce's finalization. Along with this, a divorce decree will contain a judge's signature, a case number, and the final judgments. These judgments typically include the allocation of property, any name changes that either party wants after the divorce, insurance agreements, spousal support, alimony, and debt distribution. If the couple had children together, a divorce decree would also state child custody rights and child support requirements.

According to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, laws, divorce decrees and divorce records are not public records. Only the parties involved in the divorce process, including the judge and attorneys, can obtain a divorce decree.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Illinois?

Annulment in Illinois is defined as a "judgment of invalidity," meaning that the marriage that the parties wish to dissolve was arguably invalid from the beginning. According to 750 ILCS § 5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, there are specific grounds for obtaining an annulment in the state. To be granted an annulment, the party or the lawyer of the party must prove in court that:

  • One of the two spouses was not capable of consenting to the marriage at the time of finalization due to either mental health issues or intoxication.
  • Coercion was involved in the marriage process, meaning that one party participated in the marriage due to force, pressure, or fraud. A typical example of annulments that have been granted due to fraud is when a spouse marries someone to gain citizenship within the United States to avoid deportation.
  • One spouse is incapable of sexual intercourse and hid that from the partner before the marriage.
  • The marriage is invalid because it is bigamous, meaning that one spouse was still legally married to another person when the most recent wedding took place.
  • The two spouses are closely related
  • One of the parties was underage (16) at the time of the marriage and did not have the approval of a parent or guardian or judge

Marriage annulment records in Illinois fall under the FOIA state laws, much like divorce records. This act states that annulment records are not accessible to the public but only to the parties involved in the annulment process.

Annulment vs. Divorce in Illinois

Both annulments and divorces in the state of Illinois are considered a dissolution of marriage. The difference between the two processes is that while divorce marks the end of a legal marriage, an annulment states that the marriage was never valid in the first place. The grounds for an annulment are listed above, while the grounds for divorce in Illinois are quite different. There are two kinds of divorce in Illinois: fault and no-fault. The eligibility requirements of a fault divorce in Illinois are:

  • Adultery or cheating
  • Bigamy
  • Impotence
  • Abandonment of at least one year
  • An addiction that has lasted at least two years
  • Attempted murder
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Giving the other spouse a sexually transmitted disease or infection

A no-fault divorce may be granted under 750 ILCS § 5/401 if both spouses file and sign a written statement claiming that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the parties have lived apart for six months. If only one spouse files for a no-fault divorce, one of the parties must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days, and both parties must have lived separately for least two years. In Illinois law, "living separately" does not necessarily mean that the parties must live in different households.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Illinois?

Achieving annulment of marriage in Illinois can be costly, and parties may pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on whether both spouses are filing for an annulment or just one. Many attorneys may advise parties to file for divorce rather than an annulment because the filing fees are typically cheaper, and a divorce is more often granted. The costs of filing for a divorce do not usually reach more than $300, depending on the county. The reason that divorce, specifically uncontested or no-fault divorce, is cheaper is that it often does not require court hearings or long-term involvement of an attorney, as annulment usually does.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

Uncontested divorce in Illinois is a type of divorce where both parties agree or at least do not express disagreement with the act and agreements of the divorce. An uncontested divorce can be achieved by one party filling out a standard divorce request form and submitting it to the county's judge. Uncontested divorce also refers to a situation where one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse does not contest the divorce agreements. An uncontested divorce is typically a streamlined process that is cheaper and fast than a fault or no-fault divorce. To find out where to submit this paperwork, visit the Illinois courts website.

Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Illinois?

The Illinois Supreme Court website offers all divorce forms. The Illinois Legal Aid website also provides an online form to file for an uncontested divorce. Records generated from an uncontested divorce in Illinois are not available to the public. Still, the documents can be requested by the parties involved if either wants to dispute the agreements stated on the record.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Illinois?

Illinois divorce decrees are partial divorce records held and maintained by the Illinois Department of Public Health's Division of Vital Records and the circuit court clerk in the county courthouse where the divorce was finalized. The Illinois Department of Public Health's Division of Vital Records has divorces decrees dating from 1962 to the present. Included within the divorce decree are the names of the divorced parties, the date and location of the divorce finalization, a signature from the judge that granted the divorce, the case number, and the final judgments on the case. Judgments include the allocation of property, any name changes that either party wants after the divorce, insurance agreements, spousal support, alimony, and debt distribution. If the couple raised or were guardians to a child or children together, a divorce decree will also state child custody rights and child support requirements. To access a divorce decree in Illinois, the requesting party must supply the necessary information regarding themselves or the other party involved in the divorce. Illinois state law does not allow the access of divorce decrees through the Illinois Department of Public Health Division. These records can be accessed from the Office of Vital Statistics as either an uncertified copy or a certified copy. An uncertified copy can be obtained through Vital Statistics, but a certified copy can only be accessed through the specific court where the divorce was finalized.

Although these records are not available to the public through government entities, these records may be available through third-party websites. Due to the personal nature of these records, it may prove challenging to access them in full through these websites and servers as they are not government-affiliated.

Necessary information to request one's divorce record is the date of the divorce, and valid government-issued identification such as a state I.D., driver's license, birth certificate, or passport. Accessing divorce decrees through public record websites will result in uncertified copies. If a party needs a certified copy of a divorce decree, the party must contact the Illinois Department of Public Health Division or the Illinois Office of Vital Statistics by mail, fax, or in-person. Certified copies cost an extra $5 on top of the standard search fees of the institution.

To obtain a certified divorce decree, the requesting party must submit the following:

To order a divorce decree by mail, fill out and complete an application for a divorce file in PDF format. This application asks for the names of the divorced parties, personal information, and the time and place of the divorce. Parties also have the option of sending a written request that includes the following information:

  • The names of each party
  • The dates of birth of each party
  • The time and of the divorce
  • The location of the divorce
  • Check or money order for $5 fee made payable to the "Illinois Department of Public Health"

Once this information is correctly filled out, place it in a self-addressed envelope, and mail it to:

Illinois Department of Public Health
Division of Vital Records
925 E. Ridgely Ave.
Springfield, IL 62702-2737

If the request includes cash payments, it will be thrown out. Mail-in applications typically take four to six weeks to process.

Orders for divorce decrees in Illinois can also be faxed to (217) 523-2648. The same information, in the form of an application or written request, will be needed to request these records by fax. To fax, the cover letter must include the parties' names, the date of the divorce, and the location of the divorce. Requesting parties are also required to include:

  • Credit card information, including the credit card number, name on the card, and expiration date. This information will be used for the $5 verification fee, a handling charge of $19.50, and if any additional copies are requested, a $3 fee for each one
  • The phone number of the requesting party, including area code
  • The home address of the requesting party
  • The written signature of the requesting party
  • The valid, government-issued identification of the requesting party

Orders by fax are typically processed in seven days. Like mail-in requests, if all necessary information is not included, the order will be thrown out.

For requesting parties to access a divorce decree in-person, requesting parties must visit:

The Division of Vital Records Office
925 E Ridgely Ave
Springfield, IL 62702

Typically, in-person orders are processed in three days and can be picked up in person or delivered by mail to the requesting party. The Division of Vital Records Office is open from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., except on state or national holidays. The office will provide the party with the correct forms and require a valid form of photo identification.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How do I get an Illinois Divorce Decree Online?

Accessing divorce decrees online can be difficult as Illinois does not have a statewide public database for divorce records. Still, it is possible to access this record through portals on county websites. To order a divorce decree online, requesting parties must have the following information ready:

  • Knowledge of the specific court or county where the divorce took place
  • Credit card information, including the credit card number, name on the card, and expiration date. This information will be used for the $5 verification fee, a handling charge of $19.50, and if any additional records or copies are requested, a $3 fee for each one
  • The phone number of the requesting party, including area code
  • The home address of the requesting party
  • The written signature of the requesting party
  • The valid, government-issued identification of the requesting party

Online requests are typically processed and mailed within two to five business days.

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