In Florida, a marriage may be terminated by divorce or annulment. An annulment is basically a decree that a marriage is void, or that a legal marriage never actually took place. To annul your marriage, you need to meet certain specific criteria recognized by Florida courts. However, Florida courts will also recognize a request for an annulment if you and your spouse never lived together as husband and wife or consummated your marriage.
Divorce Vs. Annulment
In Florida, it is sometimes preferable to seek a divorce rather than an annulment. This is because Florida law specifically establishes the steps for seeking a divorce, whereas Florida does not have an annulment statute. The laws regarding annulment are only established by common law decisions of court proceedings. Annulments are very difficult to establish due to the necessary court proceedings and burdens of proof; this is why some parties may seek divorce even if they have applicable grounds for annulment. Florida law provides that a void or voidable marriage can be annulled. A void marriage is a marriage that was always invalid, such as a bigamous marriage or a new marriage by someone who is currently married. A voidable marriage is a marriage that can be canceled at the option of either spouse, or allowed to continue legally at the option of the parties. An example of a voidable marriage would be if after your marriage you discover your wife is pregnant by another man.
One applicable reason for an annulment is that either party was underage at the time the marriage took place. Florida law specifically forbids marriage by any party under the age of 18 without the consent of the minor's parent or guardian, or court approval. If you determine that when you married either you or your spouse was under the age of 18, you may seek an annulment. Depending on the best interests of the underage child, Florida courts may even allow the parents of the child to seek an annulment in some circumstances.
Fraud or Duress
Another applicable ground for annulment in Florida is fraud or duress. To be construed as valid, a marriage must be entered into freely and voluntarily. The grounds for proving a fraudulent marriage include showing you were convinced to enter the marriage under false pretenses. For example, if your spouse knowingly lied about his ability to have children, it is considered a fraudulent marriage. Grounds for showing you entered a marriage under duress include demonstrating you were forced into the marriage under threat or coercion, such as if your spouse's parents threatened to shoot you if you did not enter into marriage.
Other grounds for annulment in Florida include mental incapacity of either party, physical disability affecting sexual life, marriage under the influence of alcohol or drugs, bigamy or incest. Annulment through mental incapacity would require discovery that your spouse was mentally disabled after you were married. Annulment through physical disability might include claims your spouse is impotent, barren or otherwise unable to produce children. If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your marriage, you may seek an annulment as you may not have had the capacity to consent to a marriage. Finally, if you married someone who was already married, or you married a close relative, you may seek an annulment under Florida law, although this step is likely not necessary since such marriages are automatically void and don't typically require an official decree from the court to invalidate them.
To actually seek an annulment in Florida, you need to file a petition for annulment with your local county court. You will be required to provide background information regarding your marriage, a reason why you are requesting your annulment, a statement as to any children arising from the marriage and a statement as to marital assets. If your marriage has resulted in children or significant shared assets, the court may require you seek a divorce. After filing a petition for annulment, you will need to complete a dissolution/annulment report with the Florida Department of Health.