If you are wishing to end your marriage in Florida, you will have to decide whether a divorce or an annulment is the appropriate course of action. In fact, these two proceedings are completely different. A divorce sets out to end a preexisting legitimate marriage, and carries its own set of criteria. An annulment, however, is the process of declaring that a marriage was never legitimate to begin with. Rather than ending a marriage, it essentially deletes it. Annulments, especially in Florida, can be a very complex, tricky endeavor. This article should help you understand what an annulment is, what the grounds for an annulment are, and how to go about having your marriage annulled.
What are the grounds for an annulment?
There are two major types of annulment recognized by Florida legal precedent. The first is the annulment of a marriage which is considered “void.” In a void marriage, circumstances around the marriage itself prevent the marriage from being legally legitimate to begin with. The couple in question did not meet the grounds for a Florida marriage, and their marriage only proceeded due to an oversight of this breach of criteria.
A marriage can be considered void if it violated any of the criteria for a Florida marriage. This includes:
- instances where one or more spouse is already married to another party,
- instances of incest in which the couple are close relatives,
- instances in which the couple are of the same sex,
- instances where both spouses were underage at the time of marriage,
- and instances of permanent mental illness in which one spouse could not have provided legitimate consent.
Although these marriages should have never been approved in the first place, it is important that they are formally annulled in cases in which they were.
The other type of annulment is that of a “voidable” marriage. Compared to that of a void marriage, an annulment for a voidable marriage carries a higher burden of proof. For a marriage to be considered voidable, it must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- the marriage was a joke or a sham from the onset,
- one or more spouse was unable to provide proper consent at the time of marriage due to temporary mental incapacity or intoxication,
- one or more spouse was under duress at the time of marriage,
- one or more spouse acted fraudulently, or intentionally misrepresented information to coerce the other into marriage.
- a spouse did not realize the other was impotent at the time of marriage,
- or an underage spouse failed to secure parental consent for the marriage.
Having your marriage annulled
If you think that your marriage meets the criteria for an annulment, it is important that you act fast, and take a number of steps to ensure success. If you wait too long to seek annulment for your marriage, you will compromise many of the grounds to have your marriage declared voidable. By consummating your marriage, living together, and engaging in other activities of normal married couples, you may establish legitimacy for your marriage, and override your claim that your marriage is voidable.
You must obtain a court order to complete your Florida annulment. You will first have to file your annulment papers in the Florida circuit court system. Since there is no specific law dealing with annulments in Florida, the whole procedure rides on a series of legal precedents. This can make the annulment process very confusing, and it is recommended that you seek legal aid as soon as possible.
If you are considering a Florida annulment, speak with an attorney. Consultations at the North Tampa Law Group are free. Learn your rights before signing any divorce documents. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (813) 518-7411 or e-mail us.