A divorce is the most common method of ending a Florida marriage. What many Floridians do not understand is that some marriages are void at the beginning and are never valid in the eyes of the law. These marriages can be ended by annulment instead of divorce, that is, a legal ruling that one or both of the spouses did not have the lawful capacity or give proper consent to marry the other.
Florida does not have a statute that governs the process of annulment. If a person wishes to annul a marriage, a lawsuit must be commenced in the county where one of the spouses resides. Florida courts generally follow the common law rules for annulling marriages that were never valid. Such marriages are often referred to as void ab initio, a Latin phrase meaning that the marriage was void at its beginning. Florida law bans marriages between persons related by lineal consanguinity, that is, Floridians may not marry either of their parents, their brother or sister, first cousin, nephew, niece, uncle or aunt. Bigamous marriages are also banned. These marriages are subject to termination by annulment.
Courts have determined other types of Florida marriages to be unlawful ab initio and therefore subject to annulment. These marriages include marriages in which one or both spouses lack the mental capacity to agree to marry, lack of consent caused by alcohol or drugs, one or both spouses are under the lawful age of consent and lacked parental consent, and consent was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation.
Ending a marriage is never easy, and annulment does not significantly simplify the process. Anyone wondering if their marriage or the marriage of a loved one is legal may wish to contact an experienced family for an evaluation of the circumstances.