Few people enter into a marriage without the intention to forge a long-lasting relationship. Unfortunately, there will be times when unforeseen circumstances arise that lead to your need to end the marriage. However, there are a couple of ways to approach such a matter. While many people are familiar with the concept of a divorce, not so many are aware of how an annulment might be the most appropriate course of action.
As with so many aspects of family law, there are specific marriage annulment requirements in Florida. Engaging an experienced family law attorney is essential to ensure you can understand and navigate these. However, it’s also worth taking a moment to explore the subject a little further before you make any solid decisions.
What Are the Differences Between an Annulment and a Divorce?
Before establishing what is required to get an annulment in Florida, it’s important to look at what an annulment means. Both situations result in the dissolution of a marriage. However, the simplest distinction is that a divorce ends a legally valid union. An annulment, on the other hand, ends a marriage that is in some way invalid or incorrect.
That said, this isn’t quite the whole story. It’s worth looking a little closer at some of the other differences between the two situations.
An annulment declares the marriage null and void, in effect treating it as if it never occurred. A divorce, however, maintains that the marriage was pursued and then later ended.
A divorce in Florida doesn’t require any specific grounds in order to be pursued and finalized. An annulment, on the other hand, can only be granted under specific circumstances that would render it invalid. We’ll explore these elements in the following section.
The dissolution of marriage results in a range of knock-on effects for both parties. There can be financial consequences, property division issues, and custody considerations, among others. The way these are treated between a divorce and an annulled marriage tend to be different.
One of the more well-known differences between an annulment and a divorce is the length of time between the marriage and the dissolution. In the majority of cases, annulments are sought relatively soon after the marriage. This is because the parties involved want to establish that the marriage was invalid from the outset. In the case of divorces, dissolution can be sought at any time during the existence of a valid marriage.
What Are the Requirements for a Marriage Annulment in Florida?
Importantly, the Florida family court system considers a range of eligibility requirements that determine whether an annulment is the most appropriate course of action. It is vital to work with an experienced attorney specializing in representing men in Florida, as they’ll be able to provide you with insights into the most relevant course of action. This can save you time and money, alongside minimizing the burden on the court system. That said, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the key marriage annulment requirements in Florida.
Some of these include:
One of the elements that establishes the validity of a marriage is the age of both parties involved. In Florida, people under the age of 18 years old cannot independently qualify for a legal marriage. People aged 17 and over may qualify for a legal marriage, but only with written consent of a parent or guardian and they cannot be more than 2 years younger than the intended spouse. If these conditions haven’t been met, then the marriage may meet the requirements for an annulment.
Familial or genetic relationship
Florida law does not allow marriages between direct relatives — defined by lineal consanguinity. Effectively, this means that you cannot marry anyone who is an immediate blood relation. This includes parents, children, grandparents, and siblings. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an intentionally incestuous marriage. In some instances, such marriages are only discovered years down the line as a result of new information from family members or genealogical DNA testing. In either case, this may meet the annulment requirements in Florida.
A marriage can only be valid if both parties entered into the union fully capable of understanding the meaning and potential consequences of this. In some instances, mental incapacity can render a marriage void. This could involve one or both spouses’ experiences of mental illness or intellectual disabilities. Courts may also consider this argument if one or both parties was significantly under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the marriage ceremony. While proving this can be a complex process, mental incapacity can be a requirement for annulment.
Bigamy or polygamy
Florida law doesn’t recognize marriages that occur when either party is still married. This can include instances of bigamy, in which either party has intentionally or otherwise failed to finalize the dissolution of a previous marriage. It also includes polygamous marriages, even if this is the result of religious beliefs. Regardless of the reasons behind these marriages, the most recent marriages can be eligible for annulment.
Fraud or misrepresentation
If either party withheld or misrepresented crucial facts that would influence the other party’s decision to get married, this can be grounds to void the union. However, it’s important to recognize that this can be a challenging argument and it must be proven that the other party committed genuine fraud in a way that affected the terms of the marriage. Some of the common reasons this may result in annulment may include concealing a serious criminal record, misrepresentations about infertility, and fraudulent statements about key financial information.
Force and Duress
One of the most serious requirements for an annulment is instances of force or duress. If either party was coerced into agreeing to a marriage against their will, this can render the union void. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical force was involved. Threats and emotional manipulation can also be considered reasons to grant an annulment.
What is the Process to Get an Annulment in Florida?
Obviously, simply having grounds for an annulment doesn’t mean a couple can independently declare their marriage void. You’ll need to petition the Florida courts for an annulment, which requires you to follow a process. This can be complex in some instances, so it’s important to gain the advice of an experienced Florida attorney so you can pursue it correctly.
Some key points of the process include:
Gathering supporting documentation
If you’re the petitioning party, you’ll need to prove that your marriage meets the requirements for annulment in Florida. This may include financial documents that prove fraud, marriage certificates that confirm bigamy, or birth certificates that show an underage union. It can even involve testimony and affidavits that help establish coercion.
Filing the annulment petition
To initiate the annulment process, the party seeking the annulment (who is referred to as the petitioner) must file an annulment petition with the Florida court system. The petition should outline the grounds for the annulment, provide detailed information about why the marriage should be declared null and void, and include copies of any supporting documentation.
Serving your spouse
Once the annulment petition is filed, the petitioner must serve the other party (referred to as the respondent) with a copy of the petition. This ensures that the respondent is aware of the annulment proceedings and has an opportunity to respond.
After the respondent is served, the court will schedule a hearing to review the annulment petition. During the hearing, both parties have the opportunity to present their arguments and evidence to support their positions. The court will consider the grounds for annulment, examine any supporting evidence, and make a determination. If they agree to an annulment, a judgment will be issued accordingly. If there is found to be no grounds for annulment, a divorce may be issued instead.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 415-3510
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We have years of experience representing men who are navigating the legal nuances of annulments and making decisions that result in the most positive outcomes. Our team’s experience and skills help to guide our clients through the challenges of the Florida family law courts. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.
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