Can’t I Just Get An Annulment?

It’s everyone’s nightmare – you meet, fall in love, get married…. and six months later the relationship is over. You’re fed up and think, “Do I really have to get a divorce? I’ve hardly been married!”

Every so often, I get asked about whether a client can annul his or her marriage. Florida does not acknowledge annulment by statute. And why is this? Because the grounds allowable for an annulment are very minimal. In Florida, only a void or voidable marriage can be annuled. What does void or voidable mean? More or less, it means a marriage that has no legal effect and that it is invalid. A voidable marriage is one that is capable of being voided. In Florida, the courts look to a ground that predates the marriage as the standard for if the option of annulment is available.

A void marriage is generally one that is invalid on the basis of bigamy (can’t have two spouses!) or mental incapacity (not able to understand what is going on, so couldn’t actually consent to the marriage). A voidable marriage is one that is caused under duress (the spouse did not enter the marriage upon his or her own free will), fraud (any concealment or misrepresentation of information that goes to the essential tenements of marriage), intoxication at the time of the marriage, to obtain U.S. citizenship, incest, minor without prior approval, and incurable physical impotence (can’t consummate the marriage).

The other spouse does have defenses to annulment, though. If that spouse can show that both parties waived that which made the marriage void or waited with undue delay, the court may not grant the annulment. If the annulment is granted, then Florida courts will divide property with the desire to restore the status quo of how things were prior to the marriage.

So, unless you married someone already married or some other fringe reason, things simply ending quickly is not a reason for an annulment. Even if you’ve been married a month, you will still have to go through a divorce under Florida law to restore your status as a single person.