Annulments in Florida
Both annulment and divorce marks the end of a marriage, but there are key differences between the two. A divorce ends an existing, valid marriage, but an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid. Getting an annulment may be a difficult process, as Florida law presumes that marriages are valid. A couple seeking an annulment must show convincing evidence that the marriage is invalid. If you want to annul your marriage, it is important to consult a family law attorney about your options.
Grounds for Annulment
A marriage may be annulled if it is either void or voidable. A marriage is void, meaning that it was never valid and cannot be made legally effective, if any of several grounds existed:
- Bigamy: One spouse was already married at the time of the wedding.
- Incest: The spouses were closely related by blood.
- Permanent mental incapacity: One spouse permanently lacked the mental ability to understand the nature of the marriage and give his or her consent.
A voidable marriage is considered valid as long as it is not annulled. A marriage may be voidable if any of the following conditions existed at the time of the marriage:
- Temporary incapacity: A spouse temporarily lacked the mental ability to consent to the marriage, e.g. because of intoxication or a severe but temporary mental disability.
- Fraud: Either spouse was tricked into the marriage, and the fraud went to the essence of the marital relationship; e.g. never intending to consummate the marriage, or a wedding to get a green card.
- Duress: A spouse entered the marriage because of extreme coercion or force.
- Nonage: One spouse was under eighteen and lacked a parent’s consent.
- Impotence: One spouse was impotent and the other spouse was not aware of this condition.
- Joke: one or both spouses were not serious about getting married.
If a marriage is voidable, the spouses may ratify the marriage, which means making the marriage valid. Once the disabling condition is gone, if the spouses continue to hold themselves out as a married couple, they may not later annul the marriage. For example, if the couple was intoxicated at the time of the wedding, but continued living together and consummated the marriage after becoming sober, they are deemed to have ratified the marriage, so may not later obtain an annulment.
Effects of Annulment
One issue about which many couples considering an annulment are concerned is the legitimacy of children. If a marriage is void, that means it was never valid, and any children will be considered illegitimate. However, if a marriage is merely voidable, it is considered valid until the time of the annulment. This means that the children’s legitimacy is not affected.
Another issue to consider is property division. Unlike in divorce, courts do not have any authority to divide a couple’s property after an annulment. Instead, the parties must divide their assets and debts on their own. Usually, permanent alimony is not available after an annulment, unless one spouse was the innocent victim of the other’s wrongdoing.
Another effect of an annulment is that the parties lose any spousal survivorship benefits, such as retirement or insurance benefits. They also may no longer inherit based on marital status.
Annulments are significantly different from divorces, and have unique consequences. If you are considering an annulment, an attorney can help you understand the effects and determine whether it is the right solution for you. Please contact the experienced West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein today, for a free initial consultation.