Fort Lauderdale Annulment Attorneys
There are specific procedures and laws governing annulments in Florida, which are distinct from divorce proceedings. If you are married and want more information about an annulment, or you are ready to begin the process of obtaining an annulment, the experienced team at Stok Kon + Braverman is prepared to assist you. We understand what a challenging journey this can be for the parties involved. Our attorneys provide compassionate and thorough legal counsel at each stage of the process, ensuring that you are fully aware of your legal rights and options. While you are focusing on beginning a new chapter in your life, we can protect your rights and help minimize the disruption caused by ending a relationship.
Understanding the Difference Between Divorces & Annulments
There are certain conditions that you must satisfy to obtain an annulment in Florida. In general, an annulment is a court order that declares a marriage invalid. It not only dissolves the marriage but also has the legal impact of making it as if the marriage never even existed. Many people are curious about the difference between a divorce and an annulment. A divorce is a declaration that a marriage has ended. It often includes provisions about asset distribution, child support, alimony, and other aspects of separation. A divorce does not change the fact that the marriage once existed.
When it comes to an annulment, the proceeding is based on a claim by one or both parties that the marriage was fraudulent or a sham in some aspect or that there was another compelling circumstance that negated the validity of the marriage. The ultimate difference between a divorce and an annulment, however, is that an annulment results in the marriage being non-existent or legally invalid. An attorney can help you understand which option might be better for your situation.
Grounds for Annulment
Florida does not have any statutes directly related to annulments, so the law in this area developed through judges’ decisions in court cases. Legal determinations created this way cause a lot of uncertainty because there is no black-and-white definition of what does and does not qualify for an annulment. There are, however, statutes that prohibit marriage in certain situations, and a court will grant an annulment if a person can prove one of the following circumstances existed at the time of marriage: Marriage between blood relatives, bigamy or marriage to another person while already married, a couple is under the age of 18 and does not have parental consent, or if one spouse permanently lacks the capacity to consent to marriage. In these cases, the marriage is considered void, which means it never legally existed. Since these marriages were never legal, you are not required to get an annulment to sever the union, but it is advisable to petition for one in order to protect your financial and domestic interests.
In addition to prohibited marriages, courts determined in past cases that a marriage can be voidable under specified circumstances. A marriage that is voidable will not automatically be cancelled because it was not invalid from the start. It requires one spouse to contest the validity of the marriage, and a court to decide there are grounds to annul the union based on facts that show continuing the marriage would be unjust to one of the spouses or be in contradiction to the institution of marriage. The following are some common grounds for annulment: One spouse lacked the capacity to consent to marriage at the time of the ceremony due to a mental problem or was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, one party used fraud or misrepresentation to trick the other spouse to marry them (for example, one spouse hides facts about being unable to have children), the marriage was not consummated, the marriage was a sham (i.e., getting married to aid someone’s immigration status), or the couple got married as a joke.
Legal Effect of an Annulment on Assets & Children
Courts typically do not want to get involved with property division in an annulment case and mainly leave it to the parties to divide property themselves in an effort to restore each to the same place they were prior to the marriage. However, if courts do get involved, they will apply the same guidelines to property division used in divorce cases for assets that belong to both spouses. This means the property is equally divided between the two parties unless a court determines unequal distribution is just after looking at certain factors listed in the Florida statute. Some of the factors a court can look at include how long the couple was married, the economic circumstances of each spouse, or intentionally depleting or destroying assets to prevent the other spouse from gaining a share. Further, a spouse’s interests as a beneficiary to life insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and other similar financial assets are dissolved once the annulment is granted. Courts have granted temporary alimony in some cases and ordered the spouse with more means to pay for all attorney fees, but permanent alimony is not available outside of extraordinary circumstances.
When it comes to child custody, the courts will apply the same standards and guidelines used to determine custody, visitation, and child support issues in divorce proceedings, regardless of whether the annulment was for a void or voidable marriage. Children of couples who had a prohibited or void marriage will not be considered legitimate under Florida law because the marriage was never valid, but this distinction does not affect how the court treats child custody issues.
Retain an Experienced Lawyer
Annulments are not always straightforward and can require careful planning and evidence gathering. Since the law is not settled, there are more variables and issues that you may encounter in the process of persuading a judge to grant your request. Having practiced in this area since 1973, Alan Jay Braverman proudly serves people throughout Broward County.
To schedule a consultation to discuss a potential annulment or another family law matter, contact us online or call us at (954) 874-8870.