Many people misunderstand the fundamental difference between divorce and annulment. There is a common misconception among some that annulment is an alternative to divorce that is available to those with religious objections to divorce or to dissolve extremely short marriages. Annulment is actually the process of having a marriage officially “erased” as if it never existed in situations where some legal deficiency made the marriage voidable from the outset.
It is important to understand the distinction between “void” and “voidable” marriages. A void marriage never legally exists so it confers no legal rights or obligations. Examples of void marriages include those where a person marries without a final divorce from someone else, or the parties are too closely related to get married. Voidable marriages involve situations where a legal deficiency may provide a basis for one party to have the marriage erased so that it is like it never existed. If neither partner decides to take this step, the parties may ratify the marriage. A void marriage cannot be ratified by the parties to cure the legal defect.
While the annulment process in Florida courts is similar to the divorce process, there are differences. The court may divide property and debts acquired after the marriage ceremony. However, permanent alimony is not typically awarded when a marriage is annulled in Florida, but a Florida family law judge does have the power to award permanent alimony and attorneys fees to an innocent spouse. If you are thinking about dissolving your relationship through the annulment process, you should speak to knowledgeable Palm Beach divorce lawyer James S. Cunha who can analyze your situation and advise you regarding the advantages and disadvantages of annulment.
The annulment process also differs from divorce because it is only available in limited situations including the following:
- One of the parties is married to someone else
- The marriage is the product of fraud or duress
- A party lacks mental or physical capacity to enter into marriage
- The couple are too closely related (i.e. incest)
- Lack of consent or too intoxicated to consent
- Not of sufficient age to consent to marriage
If your spouse is seeking to annul your marriage, you may be able to challenge annulment based on ratification. If the aggrieved party learns of the legal barrier to the marriage and continues to live together as though married, this ratification of the marriage may prevent annulment. In such a situation, the other spouse would need to seek a divorce rather than an annulment. Whether you are seeking an annulment, opposing an annulment or just have general questions about the differences between annulment and divorce, we invite you to contact our knowledgeable and caring Florida family law legal team. No matter where you are located, experienced Palm Beach annulment attorney James S. Cunha and his legal team are just a phone call away.