When couples who have recently married decide that they no longer wish to be together, they often look into the prospect of getting an annulment. An annulment is a court order declaring that a marriage was never valid. (This is different from a divorce, because a divorce means that the marriage is over – not that it never existed in the first place.)
While an annulment might sound like an easier option than a divorce, the reality is that in Florida, annulments are not easy to come by. Annulments are only allowed in specific situations, in which a court is convinced that the marriage itself should not have been recognized to begin with. The requirements for divorce are not nearly as strict.
There is no specific statute in Florida that lays out the requirements for annulment, but the courts have made the requirements clear. An annulment can only take place in one of the following situations:
- If there is a statutory prohibition against the marriage. (That is, if the marriage itself would be illegal due to a specific law.)
- If one or both parties did not consent to the marriage.
- If the consent of one or both parties was due to force, duress or fraud.
- If one or both parties lacked the mental capacity to knowingly enter into a marriage contract.
- If one or both parties wasn’t legally capable of entering into a marriage contract.
- If one or both of the parties are unable to consummate the marriage. (That is, if it is impossible for the two parties to have sexual intercourse, due to physical limitations.)
There are also several restrictions. Annulment can only take place if
- The marriage in question has not produced any children,
- Neither party is pregnant, and
- There are not any marital assets or marital debts that must be divided between the parties.
If a married person in Florida decides to request an annulment, they must submit a request form. The forms differ by county.
Examples of Marriages That Can Be Annulled
You may be wondering what types of real-life marriages fit these requirements. Here are a few scenarios in which a marriage could be annulled:
If two people get married, even though one of them is 17 years old – and the 17-year-old does not have permission to get married from a parent or guardian. This would be an example of a situation where one party is not legally capable of entering into a marriage contract. In Florida, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are not allowed to marry without parental consent. Even if this couple managed to obtain a marriage license, their marriage would still not be legally valid, and thus it could be annulled.
If one of the parties in the marriage was already married to someone else at the time of the ceremony. Bigamy is illegal in Florida, so this is another example of a marriage in which one party was not legally capable of entering into a marriage contract. The marriage would not be considered legally valid, and thus it could be annulled.
If someone gets married, and then finds out that their spouse has been using a false identity. If you learn that the person you married is not who they claimed to be, then your marriage was not valid. Your consent to the marriage was based on fraud – and this makes your consent invalid, just as if your spouse had forced you to sign a marriage contract at gunpoint. Because you did not truly consent to the marriage, it could be annulled.
Here are a few examples of scenarios in which a marriage could not be annulled:
1. If two parties get married, and then decide very soon afterward that they want to split up. A lot of people are under the impression that annulment is an option for couples whose marriages were short-lived. This is not necessarily the case, though. The shortness of a marriage cannot qualify it for annulment. There must be some reason why the marriage was not legally valid in the first place.
2. If two parties get married, and choose not to have sex with one another, and then decide to split up. Another common misconception about annulment is that is meant for marriages that have not been consummated via sexual intercourse. An absence of sexual intercourse, in and of itself, is not enough to qualify a marriage for annulment. However, if one or both parties were unable to physically engage in sexual intercourse, then the marriage can be annulled, because it was impossible for the marriage to be consummated, and thus the marriage is invalid.
3. If two 16-year-olds get married, with the permission of their parents, and then decide to split up. Under Florida law, someone who is 16 or 17 years old can get married if they have the consent of their parent or guardian. If they have that consent at the time of the marriage, then even if they decide to split up before they turn 18, they will not be eligible for annulment unless there is a different reason why their marriage was invalid.
The Importance of Legal Representation
If you are married, and you are considering an annulment, you should seek legal advice. An attorney can look at your specific circumstances, and tell you if annulment is an option for you – and if not, give you advice regarding the possibility of divorce. While a divorce will not abolish your marriage as though it never existed, it may address your needs better than an annulment possibly could.