All About an Annulment in Florida
What is an annulment? According to the online legal dictionary, an annulment is “A judgment by a court that retroactively invalidates a marriage to the date of its formation.” In other words, legally, there never was a marriage between the two parties. In Florida, there are definite grounds an annulment can be obtained, and there is a legal process to follow when desiring such an outcome. It is interesting to note that an annulment is often more complicated and more expensive than a divorce. Let’s take a look at both the grounds and the process.
• One spouse is still married to someone else. This reason can be used for annulment at whatever time the proof becomes available. Sometimes it is a long time before the bigamy is discovered.
• Lack of consummating the marriage. This ground is difficult to prove, and if too much time has elapsed, this reason is likely not acceptable to the court.
• Fraudulent intent to marry by an individual who hopes to gain a certain benefit such as immigration status, wealth, social prestige, or benefits such as health care, pension, or domicile security. The person committing fraud had no intention of staying in the marriage, and the other party had no knowledge before the union that the other party would want a divorce when the time was right. Sometimes a court will consider this type of fraud a reason to grant an annulment rather than a divorce so the fraudulent party will not receive the hoped-for benefits. These are usually short-term marriages.
• Coercion of one party to force the other party to marry.
• Under-age spouse which in the state of Florida is under the age of l6. If there is a pregnancy, there can be a marriage at any age with the permission of the parents and the court.
• Concealment of an important fact such as having a terminal illness, not being able to have children, being impotent, or having a criminal record of domestic violence.
• Knowingly marrying someone with severe mental health issues in order to take advantage of that person.
• Marrying under the influence of drugs or alcohol if the marriage is not consummated again after the effects of drugs or alcohol has worn off.
Process: An annulment can be initiated by either party and sometimes even by a parent in an under-age marriage. A petition needs to be filed with the local county court. You will be required to prove background information as to why an annulment is requested as well as any joint assets and debts accumulated, or children born from the union. In any case, minor children and joint assets and liabilities will be handled by the judge much the same as in a divorce. Sometimes a judge will rule, especially when children are involved or assets significant, that a divorce is appropriate rather than an annulment. If the marriage involved incest, under-age marriage, or proven bigamy a ruling may be quicker than with other grounds. Often there are extenuating circumstances which will take time, legal maneuvering, and the help of an attorney. A dissolution of marriage/annulment report will need to be completed with the Florida Department of Health following the filing of the petition.
Because the burden of proof is on the party seeking an annulment, it is wise to seek the advice and help of a Family Law attorney. There are many variations of grounds for annulment, and it takes a legal professional to ferret them out correctly. A judge does not have to grant an annulment. If you live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, or Hillsborough county or New York or Washington DC Family Law attorney Grant Gisondo can help you with seeking an annulment. He offers a free, initial, in-office consultation where he will answer any questions you have and share how he can help you get the best outcome. His office hours are Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and for new clients on Saturday from 8:30 AM to 1 PM. His office number to call for an appointment is (561) 530-4568.