What Is an Annulment?

Annulment is more than just ending a marriage.

Most people have probably heard the term “annulment” in reference to the ending of a marriage. That said, it is easy to lump an annulment and a divorce together as one and the same thing.

In actuality, there is a substantial difference between a divorce and an annulment from a legal standpoint.

What Is an Annulment?

The distinction between divorce and annulment is based on whether the marriage is legally recognized. A divorce ends a legally valid, existing marriage. An annulment, however, is a legal declaration that the marriage was, from a legal perspective, never a marriage at all. From the perspective of Florida law, an annulled marriage never existed at any point.

There are a number of reasons why an annulment may be needed or granted in Florida.

Overview of Florida Annulment

Florida statutes are specifically designed to address the dissolution of marriage, meaning divorce. For annulments, there are no statutes in Florida that specifically address when an annulment is required, needed or allowed.

Despite this, Florida does recognize annulments based on common law and previous Florida court decisions. Based on Florida common law, a void or voidable marriage may be annulled since these unions could never be recognized as a legal marriage in Florida.

Of all the reasons for why a marriage may be void, perhaps the most common reason is bigamy. A bigamous union occurs when a person is legally married to more than one person, which is not legally permissible in Florida. Other examples of why a marriage is void include:

  • Incest (a couple is closely related by blood)
  • The union involved an underage, minor party under the age of 18 who has not receive a parent/guardian’s consent or court approval
  • A spouse is permanently mentally incapacitated, ensuring the party cannot legally consent to marriage

In addition to these conditions that make a union legally void, other circumstances may exist that make a marriage voidable. Examples of such circumstances include:

  • A spouse who tricked another spouse into the marriage based on fraud, duress or misrepresentation
  • A spouse was unable to consent to the marriage because of temporary but serious mental incapacitation (for example, intoxication or drug use)
  • A spouse is impotent and the other spouse did not know this at the time of marriage
  • One or both spouses married in jest

If conditions like these are present, a party may file a petition for annulment with their local county court in Florida. The party must then provide background information on the marriage, such as why the annulment is requested and statements concerning marital assets and whether the union produced children.

If children exist and/or the couple has substantially shared assets, a Florida court may require you to seek a divorce instead. Additionally, if the other party does not agree with the annulment petition, they must file a counterclaim for divorce and serve the other party.

If you have questions regarding annulments, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]