You may have heard the term ‘annulment,’ but what does it mean? What does it do to your marriage? Can you opt for one instead of a divorce?
A divorce acknowledges that your marriage existed and has ended. You are not disputing that you were ever legally married. An annulment, on the other hand, denies that your marriage ever existed. It is null and void. You will not have to deal with property division, since each party will keep what they owned before the marriage.
When it comes to children born into a marriage, however, there are some issues concerning legitimacy. There is a difference between a void and a voidable marriage. A marriage is void when bigamy, incest, or mental incapacitation is involved. In these situations, any children born are considered illegitimate because a void marriage is never considered valid.
A voidable marriage is when a marriage can be legally annulled but does not have to be. In these cases, because the marriage was once considered valid, any children born into the marriage are considered legitimate. Once the marriage is annulled, the children are still considered legitimate.
No matter if the children are or are not legitimate, they still exist. Therefore, if an annulled marriage involved children, then there will be child custody and support issues to consider.
However, an annulment requires that you prove fraud, which requires a heavy burden of proof. Also, annulments can be more complex and even more costly than a divorce. It is hard to get an annulment because most marriages are deemed valid under Florida law.
It is important to understand that there are religious annulments and civil annulments. When you go through Florida courts, it is considered a civil annulment. However, some religions have their own rules for annulments. The clergy of the church will determine whether or not your marriage can be annulled so you can get married in the church again. If you do get a religious annulment, you are still considered married under Florida law. Only a civil annulment can change that.
There is not a lot of data on annulments because they are not tracked like divorces. However, studies show they are declining, even though they remain common in certain religions. There were 59,000 annulments in the United States in 1992. Many of those were granted to Catholics. Without an annulment, a Catholic cannot remarry in the church after a divorce. These annulments, however, are not civil annulments, as they can only be granted by clergy.
How to Get an Annulment
However, not everyone can get an annulment instead of a divorce. The laws vary from state to state, but are pretty much similar. If you want to annul your marriage in Florida, there are seven ways in which you can:
- You or your spouse lacked consent. You cannot marry someone who does not want to get married, so if you happened to meet your celebrity crush, get her drunk or drugged and then take her to a wedding chapel, that marriage would be voidable. She was not in the right state of mind to get married. A person who has a mental problem and cannot properly consent to marriage could also legally claim that the marriage should be annulled.
- Fraud. If your spouse lied in order to get you to marry him or her, then it may qualify for an annulment. For example, if you get married and your wife never moved in with you because she wanted to live in her own house, then that would be fraud. It is expected that married couples will live together. However, if your husband told you a lie that did not really affect your decision to marry him, like he said he had cancer when he really did not, then that might not qualify as fraud, but it could cause you to not trust him.
- Bigamy or incest. A person can be married to only one person at a time. If they get married while married to the first spouse, then that is considered bigamy and is grounds for annulment. Incest is another reason. In Florida, you are allowed to marry your first cousin. However, marrying your sibling or parent is illegal and cause for an annulment.
- Underage marriage. Underage marriage is also not allowed. A person can get married in Florida at age 16, if they have parental consent. Therefore, if they get married at age 15 without consent, then they can choose to have the marriage annulled.
- Duress. A person can annul their marriage if they were coerced or forced by their spouse to get married. This would have to involve credible threats of injury or death.
- Impotence. If one spouse is unable to have sex, but the other person did not know at the time of the marriage, then they can legally annul the maariage.
- Joke. Marriage should be taken seriously. Marrying someone as a joke is not only unfunny, but it is also illegal.
Seek Legal Help
In Florida, there are seven ways in which a couple can get an annulment instead of a divorce. However, these do not apply to most marriages, so annulments are still rare. Most couples opt for divorce.
Is an annulment an option for you? No matter how you are trying to end your marriage, Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help. Let him settle all the issues in your divorce with less stress. Schedule a consultation today. Call our office at (954) 346-6464 today.