What is the legal difference between divorce and annulment in Florida?

Divorces and annulments have very different legal definitions.

Are divorce and annulment the same thing? Many people may think the terms can be used interchangeably. In practice, however, the two have very distinct legal definitions. If you are considering what is right for your situation, it is important to understand the meanings and consequences of each.

Divorce vs. Annulment

Both a divorce and an annulment refer to marital status, but they refer to differing situations. A decree of annulment proclaims that the marriage never existed. In contrast, a divorce is the end of a valid marriage. In other words, a marriage that was never validly formed can be annulled whereas a validly formed marriage requires a divorce to be terminated.

It is important to note that this article is referring to legal annulments and not religious annulments which may be granted by clergy or religious institutions.

When can annulments be used in Florida?

There are a variety of reasons which may make a marriage voidable or void from the beginning. These include:

  • Either party is married to someone else
  • Either party is under age
  • Either party lacked mental or physical capacity at the time of the marriage
  • The wedding was procured by fraud or duress

These situations, however, are not always clear-cut. For instance, marriages induced by fraud are voidable (not void). This means that the marriage may be annulled or affirmed according to the wishes of the non-offending party. Additionally, that non-offending party must seek an annulment prior to receiving benefits of the marriage (like cohabitation).

When parties certify their marriage license applications they generally are required to confirm that no statutory impediments exist to the marriage like being closely related or currently married. If the representations made by either party in the marriage license are untrue, generally the marriage may be annulled.

An annulment requires a court filing. Marriages are presumed to be valid, so the party asserting that a marriage is invalid has the burden of proof to show the marriage contract was void or voidable and has never been affirmed. Property division, alimony and child support may be part of an annulment just as in a divorce.

Divorce as another option

Even if a couple finds an annulment preferable, the strict requirements make in unavailable to many couples. If your marriage was validly formed from a legal perspective, you must pursue a divorce if you wish to end the relationship.

Consult with an attorney

The firm of Philip J. Schipani focuses on family law issues and can assist you by providing legal advice about divorces or annulments. This includes guidance on the related matters of property division, child custody and support, and alimony. Every family's situation is unique, so an experienced family law attorney can provide advice tailored to your specific goals and concerns.

Keywords: divorce, annulment