Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney. Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra. Britney Spears and her childhood friend Jason Alexander. Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. What do they all have in common?
They have all gotten an annulment.
You’ve heard of annulments, and may have even seen them depicted in movies and TV shows. But what exactly are they?
What they aren’t is a divorce. While an annulment is similar to a divorce, there’s a big distinction. A divorce ends a valid, existing marriage. An annulment, on the other hand, declares that the marriage in question wasn’t a marriage at all.
Legally, the marriage never existed.
There are two types of annulments: civil annulments and religious annulments. Religious annulments are granted by a clergy member. Civil annulments are granted in a court of law.
Florida’s laws don’t specifically address annulments, but the appellate courts have made decisions – called precedent – regarding annulments over the years. These precedents make up our state’s annulment laws. And while it is possible to get an annulment in Florida, it is also difficult and far from typical.
So how does it work?
Grounds for an Annulment
Florida recognizes two different kinds of marriages for annulment purposes:
- Void marriages: these marriages were invalid from the beginning
- Voidable marriages: these marriages weren’t necessarily invalid from the beginning
All void marriages can be annulled, but not all voidable marriages can be annulled.
With that in mind, let’s look at the reasons why someone could get an annulment:
- A marriage is void because it’s bigamous, incestuous, it consists of two underage people, or one spouse is permanently mentally incapacitated and unable to agree to marriage. These marriages are void and invalid by their very nature, but the couple should still obtain an annulment.
- A marriage is voidable because one of the spouses lacked the ability to agree to marriage because, at the time of the wedding, the spouse was suffering from a serious but temporary mental problem or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- A marriage is voidable because one of the spouses used fraud or misrepresentations to trick the other spouse into entering the marriage. Not all frauds will qualify. The fraud has to apply to the essence of marriage. If Spouse A lied about having have a serious disease like cancer, that wouldn’t qualify for annulment. But if Spouse A married Spouse B but never intended to live with Spouse B as a married couple, that could potentially qualify for an annulment.
- A marriage is voidable if one spouse was under duress.
- A marriage is voidable if one spouse is underage and didn’t have a parent or guardian’s consent.
- A marriage is voidable if one spouse is impotent and the other spouse didn’t know.
- A marriage is voidable if one or both spouses got married as a joke.
Also, keep in mind that marriages that are voidable because of fraud can be made valid by consummating the marriage once the wronged party becomes aware of the fraud, duress, or temporary lack of capacity.
For example, if a spouse got married while intoxicated but the couple then had sex after the spouse got sober, the marriage can’t be annulled. Why not? If the wronged spouse chooses to have sex while knowing the truth, then the wronged spouse essentially waives any right to complain about the wrongdoing.
The bottom line is that a couple has to be able to provide evidence that an annulment is the right way to go. For this reason, you should contact an experienced Florida family law attorney to see if your marriage can be annulled.