Quick Info: Can a marriage be annulled in Florida?
Marriages can be annulled in Florida under certain conditions. An annulment is based on a claim that the marriage was a sham, was fraudulent in some way, or because of some type of compelling circumstance the marriage was never real. There is very little or no information in the Florida statutes that give legal guidance on annulment. The Florida courts have responded by filling in the gray areas of annulment with case law that defines the how, why, when, and where of annulment vs divorce. The fact that annulment is not an established law or legal right makes it an extremely complex issue, especially compared to a divorce.
Definition of Annulment:
An annulment is a court order declaring the marriage invalid. The court will not only dissolve a marriage, but in effect, an annulment declares the marriage never really existed.
What is the difference between a Divorce vs an Annulment?
The court procedure and end-effect of divorce are vastly different from an annulment. Simply put, a divorce is a court declaration that a marriage existed and has come to an end, with provisions for support, property division, child custody, alimony, and child support.
An annulment is based on a claim that the marriage was a sham, was fraudulent in some way, or because of some type of compelling circumstance, the marriage was never real. There are practicalities to an annulment case in Florida, such as the necessity of parenting decisions if there is a minor child of the annulled marriage. Sometimes the court has to also deal with a division of property. But at its heart, a marriage that is annulled and has been declared by the court is determined to be illegitimate and non-existent. That is the key difference between a divorce and an annulment.
How Do You Get an Annulment?
There is a significant gap between available information on divorce vs information on annulling a marriage. The Florida statutes contain hundreds of provisions detailing the grounds for divorce, how courts should decide divorce issues, and legal requirements for the outcome of the divorce. Annulment is different. There is very little or no information in the Florida statutes that give legal guidance on annulment. The Florida courts have responded by filling in the gray areas of annulment with case law that defines the how, why, when, and where of annulment vs divorce. The fact that annulment is not an established law or legal right makes it an extremely complex issue, especially compared to a divorce.
Here are some of the Basic Realities of Annulment
- Annulments tend to be much more complex than divorce
- An Annulment in Florida is more costly than a divorce
- You can file for Annulment, get to the final hearing, and have a Judge say No
- Annulment cases are tricky and a good Annulment Attorney is always best
Many religions have an annulment process that conforms with the requirement of that religion. Some include
- Catholic – in most cases the Catholic Church requires someone to go through the Annulment process in order to later re-marry.
- Jewish – called a “Get” . As opposed to the previous discussion, a Get does not declare the marriage never happened. But it is a way to reconcile the divorce with the Jewish religion.
- Hindu – under certain circumstances, such as a lack of consummation of the marriage (sex) during the first two months, someone may annul the marriage.
The main thing to keep in mind is that a religious annulment does not affect the fact that Florida considers you married. You must still go through the required steps to obtain a divorce or file for an annulment.
What Are the Grounds for Annulment in Florida?
That is a complex question but there is some guidance from appellate courts that have weighed the issues surrounding the annulment of marriages. There are several major grounds for annulment and hundreds of factual situations that may or may not justify a desire to annul your marriage. Here are the most common grounds for annulment:
Sham or Fraudulent Marriage
There are many reasons why individuals may desire to marry, but then decide to seek an annulment. A very common reason to seek annulment happens when someone marries to assist another person’s immigration status. Sometimes after the spouse immigrates, the marriage immediately fails. Other possible reasons to marry include advantageous public benefits, social security, the ability to guide health decisions, or basic human greed. Those types of marriages frequently fall apart almost immediately after the marriage. If the time frame is short between the date of marriage and the date the marriage fails – there is a possible claim that the marriage is fraudulent. The facts must suggest there was absolutely no intent to live together as husband and wife. Another complication that may arise – is the fact that both spouses jointly planned the marriage for one reason or another. A claim of fraud must be based on the behavior of only one spouse against an innocent spouse.
Lack of Consummation
If you never consummated the marriage, there may be a possible way to base an annulment claim on that fact. But frequently, people come to our office seeking an annulment after a 2-year marriage based on lack of consummation of the marriage. That is often a very weak claim for annulment.
The illegality of the Marriage
If the marriage was illegal to begin with, then you can file for Annulment and possibly get the court to Void the marriage. There are several reasons the marriage could have been illegal to begin with:
If one spouse was under the proper age required to sign a marriage certificate, the marriage may be illegal and subject to a claim for annulment
One Spouse is Still Married
This is the most common ground for annulment in Florida, the fact that one spouse was still married at the time of the second marriage. This is a tricky situation because one spouse has technically committed bigamy – a crime in the State of Florida. We can discuss this situation with you in advance of an annulment filing to determine the risk.
Duress, Mental Incapacity, Concealment, Legal Incapacity
These catchall grounds for a Florida annulment are rare but do come into play at times. Duress is difficult to prove and almost unheard of as grounds for annulment. Legal incapacity would go under the above description of an underage spouse. Concealment can create some interesting situations – such as a spouse that conceals the fact they cannot have children.
Division of Assets and Parenting Decisions
An annulment declares the marriage void – the same thing as never having existed. But that does not settle the problem of co-mingled assets or minor children. It is a simple fact that a court cannot declare children or money to be non-existent, the same as marriage.
Florida law on annulment allows a court to make the same type of decisions during an annulment case – as in a divorce case. In other words, a judge can decide and implement parenting plans, and child support, and can also divide property.
Effect of Annulment on Trusts, or Other Financial Documents
Florida law automatically dissolves certain types of trusts, insurance beneficiary designations, and some other financial mechanisms. A Florida annulment has some similar effects. If this is an important issue, be sure to have your attorney weigh in.
Annulment in Florida, or in any state is a highly complex way to end or void a marriage. Some people have reasons why they must have an annulment, and they should not be discouraged from investigating whether an annulment of their marriage would be possible under Florida law. There is a general misconception that costs and complications are lower than a divorce filing. That is absolutely incorrect. But if your situation fits, an Ayo and Iken Florida annulment attorney can help you investigate your chances of success.
Author’s note by Attorney Howard Iken: The article explains the difference between divorce and annulment in Florida. An annulment declares the marriage never really existed, while a divorce acknowledges that a marriage has come to an end. There is little guidance on annulment in Florida statutes, and case law defines its grey areas. Annulments can be more complex and expensive than divorces. The article also lists the common grounds for annulment, such as fraudulent or sham marriages, lack of consummation, and marriages prohibited by law. The article concludes by noting that religious annulments do not affect Florida’s recognition of a marriage and that one must still follow Florida law to obtain a divorce or file for an annulment.