FLORIDA ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE

    Marriages can be formally terminated either by dissolution (also known as a divorce) or by annulment.  An annulment is usually preferred for religious reasons, and is accompanied by a church annulment procedure.  A decree annulling a marriage is grounded on the fact that a valid marriage never existed, either because the marriage was void or voidable.  A void or voidable marriage may be terminated by dissolution or annulment.

    Florida has no special rule or statute which governs annulment.  The general venue statute is followed and the action is commenced in circuit court.  The proceeding may be brought by the innocent party, by his or her heirs or legal guardian.  The action may not, however, be maintained by an alleged next friend of an incompetent adult. The action may apparently be brought at any time.

    With the proper factual situation, the courts might allow parents to seek annulment of the marriage of an underage child, when in the best interest of the child, since some other contracts made by under age children may be set aside upon the initiative of their parents or guardians.

    Annulment is an appropriate method of termination of the marriage where one of the parties lacked the capacity to contract; either because of a prior existing marriage, extreme intoxication or lack of the requisite mental capacity.

    A lack of physical capacity to consummate the marriage may also be sufficient grounds for annulment, although impotency should not be confused with sterility.

    If the lack of intent to contract or to fulfill the contract can be proven, the marriage can be annulled.  Lack of consent to the marriage can manifest itself in a marriage ceremony held in jest.  A marriage was annulled where the older brother of the father of a woman's child married her solely for the purpose of preventing the child from being illegitimate and with no intent that the marriage be consummated.

    A marriage induced by fraud and deceit can be annulled where the marriage has not been consummated.   Misrepresentation of pregnancy, alone, has been held an insufficient reason for annulment.  It appears, however, that sexual intercourse operates as a complete ratification of a marriage otherwise voidable.

    A marriage entered into under duress may be annulled if the duress dominated throughout the relationship of the parties to the extent that one party was prevented from acting as a free agent.

    Despite the fact that the contesting party may prove some of the previously mentioned defects in the marriage, annulment may not be allowed, where that party has ratified the marriage.  If the person seeking annulment is aware of the defects and nevertheless confirms the marriage, it is deemed ratified and not later subject to annulment.  In effect, the complaining party has waived his right to contest the contract, unless it can be shown that the person ratifying the agreement was not aware of all of the material facts and therefore could not have knowingly waived his rights.  See Lambertini v. Lambertini, where the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the granting of an annulment where the parties cohabitated for thirty years, held themselves out as husband and wife, bought property as tenants by the entireties, bore and raised two children and the testimony showed the parties reasonably relied on the marriage.

    So, if you believe you qualify for an annulment, seek the advice and assistance of a competent family lawyer. Though, you may find that a dissolution of marriage will be far easier, less expensive and faster.  To get started with a dissolution of marriage (a divorce), click here.  

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