At New Horizons Law, P.A., Michael J. Costantino, Esq., is often asked whether it is possible in Florida to have their marriage end by annulment, instead of by divorce.  The response is that it is possible, but that it is very uncommon that a Florida family law court will actually grant an annulment.

There are some major distinctions between a divorce and an annulment.  Chapter 61 of Florida Statutes governs divorces and contains specific provisions that include how a court divides assets and debts; spousal and child support; and time-sharing issues with respect to children.  In one sense, a divorce recognizes that the parties were legitimately married in then allocates items from the marriage to the parties.

When a marriage is annulled, it is if the parties were never married because the marriage was not legitimate or it was void at the moment it took place.  There is not a Florida Statute that governs annulments, so therefore the Courts look at Florida case law to determine the reasons that an annulment may be granted.

The most common reasons that a Florida family law court will grant an annulment include lack of mental capacity to consent, one party was defrauded by the other, one of the parties was under duress or forced to get married, that one party is unable to consummate the marriage, or even that the marriage was entered into as a joke. 

Fraud and lack of mental capacity are probably two of the major reasons why an individual in Florida files a petition for an annulment as opposed to a petition for dissolution of marriage.  One very common example of fraud is that one party was still legally married to someone else when he or she married the person seeking the annulment.  In addition, an example of a case involving the lack of mental capacity can occur where a very wealthy elderly man or woman who is on his or her deathbed marries a much younger partner.

However, even if you do meet the factual and legal basis to petition a Florida family law court for an annulment, you may be precluded from obtaining an annulment if after you learned that there is a legal problem with your marriage you remained cohabiting with your spouse or continued to engage in sexual relations with this person.  In these situations, a family law court will find that you waived your ability to obtain an annulment.

 It has been New Horizons Law, P.A., Michael J. Costantino, Esq.’s experience that many people who ask about an annulment are concerned that his or her religion either prohibits divorce or does not allow remarriage. Different religions have processes and procedures which may be undertaken within their church that allows for a religious annulment – but this is not the same a legal annulment through the Florida Family Law Courts.

If you have any questions or concerns about obtaining an annulment of divorce in Florida, please contact New Horizons Law, P.A., Michael J. Costantino, Esq. to schedule a consultation.