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What is the Difference between an Annulment and a Divorce in Florida?

Many couples who get married later want to end their legal relationship. Generally speaking, the first option that people consider is divorce, but in certain situations there may be other options available. One of the most commonly used alternatives to divorce is known as “annulment.” Just like divorce, an annulment dissolves the legal relationship between a married couple, but in an annulment the court is in essence declaring that a valid marriage never existed. For some people, is it important to avoid divorce due to the perception that it may involve some sort of social disgrace. Others may have personal religious opposition to divorce or may believe that their faith requires an annulment rather than a divorce. Annulment can be much more complicated than divorce, and often requires much more intensive assistance from an attorney. Consequently, it is important for anyone who is considering pursuing an annulment to discuss all of their options with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney.

What are the Grounds for Annulment?

Not every marriage can be annulled. Interestingly, Florida statutory law details the procedures through which a couple can obtain a divorce, but is silent as to what reasons justify annulment. The law has been developed through court decisions interpreting common law, which are binding on lower courts through the doctrine of precedent. Some of the common grounds for annulment recognized by Florida courts include the following:

  •         One spouse was still married to someone else
  •         One of the parties to the marriage was underage
  •         The marriage was illegal
  •         Consanguinity
  •         One spouse engaged in fraud or misrepresentations in order to induce the other spouse to get married
  •         The marriage was never consummated
  •         Lack of capacity due to mental issues or intoxication

What are the benefits of obtaining an annulment rather than a divorce?

Because Florida annulment law can be very complicated, it is important for anyone who believes they may be entitled to an annulment to discuss their circumstances with an experienced lawyer. Some of the benefits of annulment over divorce include the following:

  •         The complications regarding the division of property or child custody are limited
  •         No obligation to support the other party after the annulment has been granted
  •         Avoidance of any social stigma that you believe may be associated with a divorce
  •         If the grounds for annulment are agreed-upon, the avoidance of legal battles with the other party to the marriage

While these advantages may make a significant difference to some couples, for others they may not. In some cases, it may be simpler for two people who agree that a marriage never should have happened in the first place to simply obtain a divorce instead of an annulment. This way, they can agree to the terms of the divorce through a settlement agreement and incorporate that settlement into the divorce decree, making it binding. Of course, each case should be thoroughly reviewed by an experienced attorney in order to determine what course of action is best based on your specific circumstances.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Florida lawyer Alan R. Burton has been helping people with legal issues related to family law for over three decades. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (954) 229-1660.