What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment in Florida?
Most failed marriages end in divorce. But there are some cases where one or both parties may wish to pursue an annulment instead. But what is the difference? Does it matter whether you end a marriage by divorce or annulment? And how does an annulment affect issues like child custody?
What Is an Annulment?
The key difference between a divorce and an annulment in Florida is fairly simple to explain. A divorce is when a court dissolves a legal marriage. An annulment is when a court declares the marriage never legally existed in the first place.
Beyond that simple explanation, however, annulment is actually a tricky subject to discuss in Florida. There is no statutory law regarding annulment. It has been left to the state’s courts to effectively create the rules creating and governing annulments through the common law.
Essentially, there are a limited number of grounds where Florida courts will annul a marriage that is either void or voidable. A void marriage is one that was never legal and could not be made legal after-the-fact. A void marriage can always be annulled. A voidable marriage is one where there may be a legal defect at the outset but that does not necessarily justify an annulment.
Some examples of void marriages in Florida include:
- Bigamy: One or both parties were already legally married to another person at the time of the purported marriage.
- Incest: The parties are closely related by blood or marriage.
- Mental Incapacity: One spouse suffers from a permanent mental incapacity, meaning they cannot legally consent to any marriage.
Circumstances that can make a marriage voidable in Florida include:
- Fraud: If either party committed a fraudulent act or engaged in misrepresentation to trick the other into marriage, a judge can annul the marriage depending on the nature of the act or misrepresentation.
- Duress: If either party was under extreme coercion or force at the time of the wedding, it can be voidable for duress.
- Underage: If either party was not of legal age to marry–17 in Florida–the marriage is voidable.
Is Divorce Preferable to Annulment?
Both divorce and annulment in Florida require at least one party to file a petition in circuit court. But keep in mind, while Florida allows for “no-fault” divorce, anyone seeking an annulment must prove the marriage is void or voidable. To put it another way, you can obtain a divorce without having to prove anyone did anything wrong. That is not the case with an annulment. So even if a marriage may be voidable, in some cases the parties may still decide a divorce is the better option.
Also note that if a couple has any minor children, an annulment does not eliminate the need to have a judge determine issues like time-sharing and child support. And in some cases, a Florida court may still award alimony following an annulment, particularly if the judge determines that one party was the victim of the other’s misconduct.
Contact Tampa Annulment Attorney Laura A. Olson Today
If you are considering either a divorce or an annulment, it is important to seek out competent legal advice from a qualified Tampa family law attorney. Contact the Law Office of Laura A. Olson, P.A., today to schedule a free initial consultation.