Florida marriages are most commonly terminated by divorce, but in rare cases, can also be terminated by annulment. An annulment is an order stating that your marriage is completely void, or that an actual, legal marriage never took place. There are some very strict and specific criteria that Florida courts require to recognize a marriage annulled. Although, Florida courts will recognize an annulment request if you and your spouse never consummated your marriage, or if you never lived together as husband and wife.
The are clear-cut steps in Florida law regarding divorce, however, the same cannot be said for annulment. Florida does not have an annulment statute, which means that and laws regarding annulments are established by using common law decision of other court proceeding. Plus, annulments can be very difficult to establish because of all the necessary court proceedings and burdens of proof you need to provide. But, Florida law does provide that a void or voidable marriage can be annulled.
A void marriage is a marriage that was invalid from the very start, so had you gone to your local court house to get a marriage certificate under one of these pretenses, you would have been denied. This could be in cases such as a bigamous or polygamous marriage, or, for example, getting married and then shortly thereafter finding out that your spouse if pregnant from someone other than yourself.. These are considered voidable because either spouse can request the marriage be canceled, or you can continue to stay legally married at the option of both parties.
Florida divorce courts will accept a marriage made under fraud or duress as an applicable ground for annulment. You will have to convince the court that you were convinced into the marriage under false pretenses. Perhaps your spouse told you that she wants to have children as soon as possible, and then you find that she never could (or vice versa) after the marriage. This would be considered for annulment due to fraudulent promises. Also, if someone threatens you into the marriage through force, threat, or coercion, the marriage can be annulled, as a marriage must be entered into freely and voluntarily.
Underage marriage is also a ground for annulment in the state of Florida. Florida law is incredibly specific about this, and forbids marriage of any party under the age of 18 unless they have the express consent of the minor’s parents or guardian, or if the court provides approval (which is going to be rare). You may seek an annulment at any time if you find out that either you or your spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of marriage. The parents/guardian of the underage child can also seek annulment in some circumstances.
Some other grounds for annulments in Florida include physical disability affecting sex life, bigamy, incest, mental incapacity of either party, or marriage under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Again, a marriage must be entered into freely and voluntarily, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol may provide you with grounds to say you did not have the capacity to consent to a marriage. Annulment through physical disability may include claims that your spouse is barren, impotent, or otherwise unable to produce children.
If you want to proceed with petitioning for an annulment, you will need to file that petition with your local county court, and be prepared to provide background information regarding your marriage, why you’re requesting the annulment, and a statement explaining why any children may have been produced from the marriage. Marriages resulting in children or major shared assets may still be required to go through the standard divorce process. Once your petition for annulment is filed, you will also need to complete a dissolution/annulment report with the Florida Department of Health.