Annulment or Divorce in Florida
Can I get annulled? Or should I get divorced?
Under Florida law, once people are legally married it can only be terminated by death or a court order. If a marriage is found to be void or voidable that can result in the parties being un-married. Once a marriage is void, the court can terminate the marriage by issuing either a dissolution of marriage (divorce) or annulment. In a divorce, the court dissolves/ends the relationship. See Florida Statute § 61.052 to read more. In contrast, an annulment voids a marriage as if it never existed. (A search of the Florida Statutes for “annulment” will result in zero returns – the law itself is silent on annulments.) Under Florida family law, a dissolution of marriage is granted when there are irreconcilable differences. An annulment is granted if a judge determines that there was never a valid marriage. Note there are other reasons for divorce in Florida however the vast majority are based on irreconcilable differences. To be eligible for an annulment, there must be a defect in the formation of the marriage. If the union was legally created, a divorce is required. To determine if your marriage is void or voidable you should contact an experienced family law attorney with a high success rate. Under Florida law, there is no statute for officially annulling a marriage in family law.
Requirements For a Valid Florida Marriage
Florida has several requirements to form a valid marriage such as: a couple must secure a marriage license and solemnize the union with a ceremony. The marriage license must be issued by either a Florida county court judge or clerk of the court. The marriage license will expire within 60 days unless an authorized official completes at least a simple ceremony.
What Is An Annulment In Florida?
What an annulment is based on in the law is past cases or, as attorney speak says “case law”. This means past cases involving requests for annulment and their outcomes will guide the Judge in your case as to whether a divorce or an annulment is proper. An annulment declares that the marriage never legally existed, and the parties return to pre-union status. Unlike a divorce, there is no property division or alimony in an annulment in Florida. To have a marriage annulled, it must be either void or voidable.
Under Florida law, only marriages which involve bigamy (married to more than one person), incest, or parties of the same sex are void. Conversely, a union has grounds to obtain an annulment if it was obtained by fraud, duress, or temporary insanity.
Is The Marriage Void Or Voidable?
For a marriage to be invalid, it must be void or voidable. A void marriage should never have been permitted to form under the existing law. For example, one spouse or both spouses are currently married when attempting to marry another or an underage spouse.
On the other hand, a voidable marriage had grounds to exist when the union started, but something has been learned later that should nullify the marriage. For instance, lying about a fundamental aspect of the marriage can be the basis for a voidable marriage.
How Do I Get An Annulment In Florida?
Either spouse may be permitted to file for annulment. In some instances, an annulment case may even be filed after the parties are deceased. However, if the relationship is only voidable, at least one spouse must be alive and a party to the case. See the decided case Arnelle v. Fisher which is a 1994 Brevard County case which discusses the distinction between a void and voidable marriage.
Alimony In a Florida Annulment
If an annulment is granted, the law will treat the relationship as if there was never a marriage. Therefore, there will be no marital assets or property to divide in a voided marriage. Instead, the parties leave with the property they began the relationship with. Usually, alimony is also not granted in Florida voided marriage cases.
In certain circumstances, alimony can be awarded in an annulment between one or both spouses. In Kindle v. Kindle, also a Brevard County case, the court awarded one spouse permanent alimony with the annulment. The judge felt one spouse was an innocent victim, and to deny alimony after a twenty-year marriage would be unjust and it was upheld upon appeal. As with many cases that are appealed there is one Judge dissenting with the opinion in Kindle and he states a strong case for why the basis of Kindle’s decision is improper. Moral of the story is – case law changes and you need the advice of an experienced family law attorney.
Annulment Based On Duress
Duress can be used as a legal means to annul a marriage. If the petitioner entered into marriage solely because of duress, they might have grounds for an annulment. Duress is a degree of pressure that is so strong it deprives the victim of the capacity to refuse the union. See Florida Supreme Court case, Beeks v. Beeks. The duress must be shown with clear and convincing evidence.
Accepting benefits of marriage, such as cohabitation or consummation after the duress has ceased, may ratify the marriage. If the union has been ratified, it may not be eligible for an annulment in Florida. Instead, the parties may need to file for a dissolution of marriage.
Annulment Case For Fraud
Fraud can occur if there is an intentional misrepresentation of fact, knowing that the other spouse would rely on it. The victim must also have relied on the misrepresentation when consenting to the marriage.
For instance, entering into a union with no intention of living as husband and wife can be considered fraudulent. On the other hand, failing to follow through with a spouse-entered agreement is not fraud unless the promissory had no intention of fulfilling the promise when it was made.
For voided marriage cases involving fraud, time is of the essence. The party seeking the annulment must do so within a reasonable time after discovering the fraud. If too much time passes, a dissolution of the relationship may be required. The amount of time will vary based on the circumstances of each case.
Requirements For Divorce In Florida
Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Therefore, you don’t need to prove adultery, mental incapacity, what the spouse lacked, or several grounds for the relationship to end. All Florida divorce law requires is there be irreconcilable differences.
A divorce is more common because an annulment can only be granted in limited circumstances and an annulment has a much higher burden of proof to achieve success. The party seeking to void the marriage has the full burden of proving the grounds for the annulment.
Contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Rhoden Law Group for a complimentary consultation to answer your questions about annulment, divorce, custody, alimony, adoption, and other family law topics. 321-549-3162 call or text, or email using the contact form on this site.