Annulments are frequently misunderstood, due to the way they are represented
commonly in media. When it comes to the difference between divorce and
an annulment, there is a very clear one. A
divorce is the dissolution of a valid, existing marriage. In the eyes of the law,
an annulment is a declaration that what was thought to be a marriage was
never a valid marriage at all. When an annulment occurs, it’s as
if the marriage had never existed at all.
In Florida, there are no laws that expressly provide for annulment, but
the appellate courts of the state have issued binding decisions about
annulment. These ruling have created a precedent for annulment over the
years. Florida makes a difference between void marriages and voidable
marriages. Void marriages were invalid from the beginning of the marriage,
while voidable marriages may not have been invalid at the start. All void
and voidable marriages can be annulled, but not all voidable marriages
should be. If you are uncertain if you should file for an annulment, discuss
your options with a qualified family law or divorce lawyer.
In Florida, grounds for an annulment include:
- Void marriages due to bigamy, incest, both spouses are underage, or one
spouse is unable to consent due to mental incapacity.
- One spouse is underage and the marriage happened without parental consent.
- One spouse was tricked into the marriage or one spouse gravely misrepresented
- One spouse was coerced into the marriage.
- The marriage was entered under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- One spouse is discovered to be physically disabled in a way that affects
sexual activity or reproduction.
How to Get an Annulment in Florida
If you wish to get an annulment, you must get a court order, and the marriage
must be void or voidable by one of the above reasons. When you file your
petition for an annulment, you will need to explain why the marriage is
void or voidable, and you will need to file with Florida’s circuit
courts. These courts are the only courts in Florida able to grant an annulment.
When you file your petition and explanation for the grounds of annulment,
your spouse has the option to serve a counterclaim, refuting your claims.
If they are successful with their counterclaim, you will only be able
to seek a divorce, rather than an annulment. Because Florida presumes
that all marriages are valid, you will have the burden of proof to provide
strong evidence to support your claims.
The Effects of an Annulment
Because an annulment varies from divorce, the effects of annulments can
differ. Annulments mean that the marriage never existed, whereas divorces
are the end of an existing marriage, so the way the end of marriage is
handled between the two situations varies.
Children in a divorce are considered to be legitimate and paternity is
not questioned. In a voidable marriage, children are also considered to
be legitimate, and an annulment will not change their status. Void marriages,
however, were never valid, and any children resulting from these marriages
are not seen as legitimate. Regardless of the marriage’s status
as void or voidable, the circuit court will make decisions regarding
child support, and parenting plans.
Unlike divorces, annulments do not require a decision to be made regarding
alimony. The court can make a decision to grant temporary support, known as
support pendent lite. The courts may also require the more financially able spouse to help
the poorer spouse pay their attorney fees. This is typically decided on
a case by case basis, depending on the situation of the divorce. Permanent
alimony is only awarded when it has been determined that one spouse was
the victim of the other spouse’s wrongdoing.
In a divorce, property can be divided by the court is a couple cannot agree
on the division. For annulments, the
division of marital property is decided upon by the spouses, with minimal court interference. They
should seek to restore themselves as closely as possible to the financial
status they had before the marriage. Neither spouse would be able to inherit
or assert property rights after the annulment.
Filing for an annulment can be difficult. If you need help obtaining an
end to your marriage, our Daytona Beach divorce attorneys are here to
help. We can help you decide your best options, file your petition, and
defend your reasons for seeking an annulment. At
Stepniak & Park, we are committed to protecting our clients’ rights. With more than
35 years of combined experience, we have the skill and know-how to help
you achieve the best outcome possible for your case.
Contact our offices by calling (386) 868-4771 to request your