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Annulment Versus Divorce: What is the Difference?

When you go through the divorce process, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse both agree that the marriage was valid. This is an assumption that you must make to have a legal divorce. An annulment, on the other hand, treats the marriage as if it never happened. There are only certain circumstances in which an annulment is appropriate, however.

Why Would You Want an Annulment?

Some couples prefer to have their marriage annulled because they believe divorce carries a stigma that they would like to avoid. Others wish to have the marriage annulled for religious reasons or to be able to remarry in their church at a later time.

There are two types of annulment. The first is based on civil law and is granted by the government, and the other is a religious annulment carried out by the church.

Requirements for a Civil Annulment

Florida allows civil annulment, but unlike a divorce, it does not have an annulment statute. Instead, annulment is based on prior decisions of the court, often referred to as “case law.” They can be difficult to establish, which is why many couples seek a divorce instead of an annulment in Florida.

A marriage that is void or voidable can be annulled in Florida. A “void” marriage is one that was always invalid, often because it violated the law when it was carried out. For example, a bigamous marriage is always void in Florida.

A “voidable” marriage can be canceled or annulled at the option of either spouse, but it can also continue if the spouses prefer. For example, your marriage may be voidable if you discover that your wife is pregnant by another man shortly after you marry.

Some of the most common reasons that couples get annulment are included below.

  • Underage Spouse. The legal age that someone can enter a marriage in Florida is 18. If the spouse is under 18 and the marriage took place without the consent of his or her parents, then the marriage may be annulled. In fact, parents may even be able to annul the marriage on behalf of their child in some circumstances.

  • Fraud or Duress. A valid marriage must be entered into freely and voluntarily. If someone is forcing another person to marry or convinces the spouse to marry under false pretenses, the marriage is not valid. Either party can seek an annulment under these circumstances.

  • Mental Incapacity. You must have the capacity to enter a contract to be legally married. If either spouse cannot knowingly enter this type of agreement, the marriage can be annulled. If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the wedding or when you agreed to be married, you may also be able to annul the marriage.

Physical disability that affects your ability to conceive or consummate the marriage can also be a reason to annul the marriage. Marriages that involve bigamy or incest are also void in Florida.

You must file certain documentation with the local county court in Florida to seek an annulment. The process is very different than obtaining a divorce. Determining which route is best for you and your unique situation can be difficult, but an experienced family law lawyer can help you with this process. Call 813-202-7831 for more information.

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