Married couples in Florida have two options to legally end their marriage: annulment and divorce. The outcomes of both are the same—the ending of a marriage—but the requirements and implications of each are very different.
Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage and, by definition, requires that the marriage in question was valid. An annulment, on the other hand, is only given when the ability of one spouse to enter into a valid marriage comes into question.
In Florida, annulments and divorces differ in a few key ways. First, Florida is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither party is required to prove certain grounds in order for a divorce to be granted other than to simply show that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Annulments, on the other hand, are rare and only granted when one of the following elements is present:
Second, Florida annulments are unique in that a third party is allowed to question the validity of a marriage, causing an annulment to occur, whereas only the spouses can initiate a divorce.
Third, unlike divorce which has laws and established procedures governing the process and outcome, annulments aren’t provided for by statute. The lack of statutory guidance makes it even more difficult to annul a marriage because general terms such as “fraud” lack specific examples of what the court accepts; the determination of whether an element of annulment exists is left up to the judge, causing inconsistencies and uncertainty in whether one will be granted.
Whether a person’s marriage ends by way of divorce or annulment could have very important financial implications as it pertains to equitable distribution and alimony. It is important to speak with an attorney experienced in these matters in order to obtain the result that best suits your situation.
If you’re a Jacksonville resident and are considering ending marriage, our experienced family law attorneys can help you decide whether a divorce or an annulment is most appropriate. To receive your free initial consultation and find out more about our divorce and other family law services, please contact our office at (904) 355-2700.