Divorce vs. Annulment of Marriage: Can You Annul Your Marriage in Florida?
Every state has its own regulations for ending a marriage, either through the divorce process or annulment. Florida’s family law, however, does not explicitly address the annulment of marriage.
Over the years, Florida’s appellate courts have issued numerous rulings, which now constitute annulment laws. Many people think annulment and divorce are synonyms. While it is true that the two terms share the ultimate result – ending a marriage – the two processes are quite different.
Those who do not know the difference between annulment and divorce need to understand that divorce ends a valid and existing marriage, while an annulment merely confirms that a marriage was never valid.
Although annulments are not common in Florida, and it can be challenging to annul your marriage in the Sunshine State, you can obtain the annulment with the help of an Orlando family law attorney.
Can You Annul Your Marriage in Florida?
There is a difference between void and voidable marriages in Florida. A void marriage is one that was invalid from the very beginning, while a voidable marriage might not have been void from the start.
It may sound complicated, but not all voidable marriages can be annulled in Florida, whereas all void marriages qualify for an annulment. You are likely to annul your marriage in Florida if it meets the following criteria:
- One or both spouses are underage;
- The marriage is bigamous (either party is married to two people at the same time);
- The union is incestuous (it involves incest or spouses are too closely related to each other); or
- One spouse is mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to consent to the marriage.
If any of the above is true, your marriage is void and can be annulled in Florida. Such marriages cannot be made legal in the state of Florida.
If your marriage meets the following criteria, you may obtain an annulment because the marriage could be considered “voidable”:
- One or both spouses did not have the ability to consent to the marriage when the wedding took place;
- One or both spouses were impaired by alcohol or drugs during the ceremony;
- A spouse tricked the other into entering the marriage through misrepresentation or fraudulent acts;
- One or both parties were forced or coerced to enter the marriage; or
- One spouse is impotent, while the other was not aware of this at the time of entering the marriage.
Obtaining an Annulment of Marriage in Florida
Even if your marriage is void – and thus cannot be considered valid by Florida law – you are still required to get a Florida court order to obtain an annulment. You will have to submit annulment papers in Florida’s circuit courts to initiate the process.
To request an annulment of marriage, you need to file and serve a petition for annulment, which explains your arguments why you consider your marriage to be void or voidable. If your spouse does not agree with your statements, he/she can submit a counterclaim for the dissolution of marriage.
If the counterclaim is successful – and your spouse proves that your marriage is not void or voidable – you will be granted a divorce instead of an annulment in Florida. The circuit court will still decide on child support, child custody, and visitation rights, regardless of whether you obtain an annulment or divorce.
However, when it comes to property division in the event of an annulment of marriage in Florida, neither spouse can inherit from the other. Unlike in a divorce, the court will not divide the property if either spouse is granted an annulment.