An action for dissolution of marriage seeks the termination of a valid marriage. An action for annulment seeks a final judgment that declares that the marriage is “void” and therefore never existed. Annulments are rare because the underlying set of requirements are likewise rare. Contrary to what many individuals believe, a request to annul a marriage based upon a realization after a week or month or three months that a terrible mistake was made have no impact at all upon entitlement to annulment.
A marriage is a legal contract. Therefore, the marriage may be annulled for any cause that has prevented the parties from contracting a valid marriage. Each person must have the capacity and consent to contract. Invalidity may arise from:
– legal or mental incapacity;
– physical incapacitates or infirmities;
– or, because of lack of consent to marriage as a result of force, duress, fraud or concealment.
Like most legal problems, quick and easy answers about annulment that include the word “always” are rarely available. Some marriages are “void” and others are “voidable”.
Bigamy, the act of knowingly marrying someone with a married spouse, is a felony. The marriage is void from its inception because you cannot be married to more than one person at the same time. That’s an easy one, right? Most of the time it is but, the world is complicated. There is no Florida statute that specifically declares such marriages to be void. If Joe marries Sally on Monday and then “marries” Cindy on Tuesday, Joe is in big trouble and Cindy can ask that the marriage is annulled because she is the innocent spouse. So what happens if Joe marries Sally and Sally leaves the next day for parts unknown. Three years later Joe marries Cindy and Sally shows up at the wedding reception. Well, Joe has his hands full but, he is not necessarily in legal trouble. Florida statute creates exceptions to bigamy such as the reasonable belief that the prior spouse is dead, voluntary desertion by the prior spouse for three continuous years and the other party does not know whether the spouse is living within that time, remarriage while unaware that a prior divorce or annulment judgment was invalid, or a reasonable belief by a person that he or she is legally eligible to remarry.
Intoxication and Las Vegas is yet another example. If Joe is so intoxicated that he does not have the legal capacity to consent to marry but, the ceremony takes place and he wakes up the next day with a ring on his finger and Sally by his side, his marriage is “voidable”. His marriage is valid until it is annulled and legal rights and liabilities may attach. He can file immediately for annulment and it should be granted. Can Joe live with Sally, hold her out as his wife, buy property as “husband and wife” and ask for an annulment three months, six months or a year later? The answer is “No” because the attempted marriage can be ratified by the intoxicated party when they are sober.
Other examples that would need to be analyzed by an attorney to determine if the marriage is “void” or “voidable” include:
- A sham marriage is when neither party has the intent that the marriage is to be binding nor any intent to accept the duties and rights of the relationship;
- Permanent, incurable impotence;
- Duress or undue influence;
Timothy J. Nusser, Family Law attorney in Pensacola Florida, will assess your case and evaluate whether it meets the requirements for an annulment. He will assist you in collecting the necessary evidence to provide the court in order to reach a successful outcome.
Disclaimer: The hiring of an annulment attorney in Pensacola is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.