Whether you are entitled to an annulment, having your marriage annulled, is a factually and legally intensive question. An annulment is different from a divorce in that an annulment is a determination by a Court that the marriage should not have legally existed, whereas a divorce recognizes the legal validity of the marriage and then dissolves same.
Know Your Rights
Interestingly, an annulment is not a remedy that has been created by the Florida legislature. The only instance the term “annul” even comes up in the current (2017) Florida Statutes in the marriage context is in Section 826.02, in reference to laws against bigamy and incest.
Rather, an annulment is a remedy that has been created by the Courts to address specific legal and factual circumstances. As such, case law is the primary source to determine whether you may be entitled to an annulment. This is why there are no statutorily defined “grounds” for an annulment and the question of whether one is entitled to an annulment is a complex factual and legal issue to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Your Attorney’s Obligation To You
Your attorney’s obligation is to be your staunchest representative and an officer of the Court. We will provide you with the most practical and straightforward advice available in assessing each client’s situations and goals.
Attorney Client Privilege
In Florida, the attorney-client privilege is codified in Section 90.502, Florida Statutes. This law states that, generally, communications between a client and their attorney are confidential. In other words, without a legal waiver or other specific exceptions, you and/or your attorney cannot be compelled to disclose communications made in performing our services.
Relationship Based On Trust
From the initial consult through the final hearing, it is of the utmost importance for attorneys and clients to be truthful with one another and for there to be trust between them. The pair are a team and trust is essential. We believe in being transparent with our clients and we cannot afford to be surprised at any time in a case because a client has failed to be transparent with us. If the idea should ever cross your mind and you question, Should I tell my attorney this? The answer should always be, Yes – we are available to then tell you if “this” may be an issue.
Your Attorney’s Role
An attorney may have several roles throughout a case, especially in family law. We may be your representative, your advocate, your advisor, an/or your counselor.
Case law has been instructive as to a handful of common situations where an annulment would be appropriate.
For example, a fraudulent marriage or a sham marriage, when one marries another solely for the purpose of obtaining a favorable immigration status or citizenship, may be annulled. Similarly, if parties married solely to obtain public benefits, social security, or to avoid tax liabilities, a court may annul the marriage.
Lack of consummation – i.e. the parties never had sex. Generally, this is a weakest argument for an annulment.
Legal invalidity – the marriage should not have been permitted to legally take place to begin with. This situation most often arises in the cases of an underage spouse or spouses, if one or both parties are married to a different individual at the time of the marriage, or if one or either party has the mental incapacity to consent to the marriage. Other rarer circumstances may include where someone is forced into a marriage under threat, duress, or undue influence.
One of the most complex potential grounds for an annulment involves concealment. These types of situations may arise when one spouse hides or lies to the other spouse about a key element of the marriage agreement. An example would be whether one is physically able to have children.
Even though an annulment essentially declares that a marriage never legally existed in the first place, there may still remain issues between the parties that need to be resolved by a court – i.e. property division, time-sharing of minor children, and child support. Alimony cannot be awarded if a marriage is annulled.
There may be several reasons an individual may seek to pursue an annulment rather than a divorce. Often times, the most common reasons are religious reasons. Keep in mind, even if your church or place of worship annuls your marriage, if you were married pursuant to a state marriage certificate or license, the State will still consider you married until you obtain an annulment or dissolution from a Court.
Remember, obtaining an annulment may not resolve all the issues between you and your former spouse, especially if children are involved. You should carefully consider whether you need or want to obtain an annulment and you should speak with an experienced Florida family law attorney when considering your options.