A lot of people think of divorce as a legal matter but marriage annulment as a religious matter. For example, some Christian denominations will annul a marriage if the couple never consummated their marriage sexually, but except where abuse is concerned, family courts in the United States rarely concern themselves with people’s sexual behavior. Perhaps the most famous historical incident involving marriage annulment was the one involving King Henry VIII of England. The refusal on the part of the Catholic Church to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was a major precipitating event in the Protestant Reformation in England.
What is Annulment of Marriage?
The secular and religious definitions of marriage annulment are similar in their essence. According to Florida law, an annulment is when a court declares a couple unmarried on the grounds that their marriage is not valid. It is different from a dissolution of marriage (divorce). In a divorce, the marriage was real, but a judge legally ends the marriage at the request of one or both parties. The law considers the marriage to have begun on the day of the couple’s wedding and to have ended on the day the court issued the divorce decree. Courts make decisions about spousal support based on these dates. For example, courts rarely award permanent alimony in cases in which the couple was married for less than 17 years.
By contrast, in an annulment of marriage, the court declares that the couple was never actually married because their marriage was never valid in the first place or has become invalid. In practice, if the couple has children together, the husband maintains his status as the children’s legal father and does not need to take any further action to establish paternity.
Void and Voidable Marriages
Florida’s rules about annulment come from case law (precedents set in previous legal decisions) and not from Florida’s Constitution or statutes. They recognize a difference between void and voidable marriage. A marriage is void if there was a circumstance that, if the court had known about it at the time of the marriage, then it never would have legally recognized the marriage. In Florida, marriages are void if the spouses are close blood relatives or if one spouse was legally married to someone else at the time he or she married the spouse seeking the annulment. Florida courts have considered marriages voidable for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Duress – Someone forced or pressured one or both spouses into the marriage.
- Temporary inability to consent – One spouse was too ill or intoxicated to understand his or her actions at the time of entering into the marriage.
- Lack of parental consent – A spouse younger than 18 years old entered the marriage without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
Contact Alan Burton About Marriage Annulment Cases
Alan Burton works exclusively with family law cases, including those that involve annulment of marriage. Contact Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, Florida if a court has declared your marriage void or voidable, or if you think that it should.