Annulment or Divorce?

Divorces have become a common occurrence in the United States as social and economic dynamics change and progress.  However, in rare instances, a marriage may not have been valid to begin with.  In these very rare cases, a person may petition the court for an annulment, which equivocates to the marriage never having to have existed.

There are no laws in Florida that specifically outline the requirements or procedure for annulment.  Florida Statute Ch. 61, merely describes the basis of marriage dissolution (divorce).  However, there are several appellate cases that have been the basis for legal precedent over the years.  The presumption of every dissolution hearing is that the marriage was legal and valid, therefore it is the burden of the petitioner to prove that the marriage was invalid, either at the time of marriage or by acts committed on the part of the respondent.

The simplest grounds for an annulment are marriages that were void at the time of commencement.  These include marriages that were void due to:

  • One or more spouse has a permanent mental incapacitation and is unable to give legal consent.
  • Marriage being one of an incestuous nature; the spouses are closely related by blood or marriage.
  • One or more spouses was still legally married at the time of commencement, also known as a bigamous or polygamous marriage.

More complex annulments exist when the very nature of the marriage is valid, however made voidable by the following conditions:

  • One or both parties were married as a point of humor.
  • One spouse is unable to produce children and the other spouse was unaware at time of marriage.
  • One or more of the parties is under the age of 18 and entered marriage without written consent of parent or legal guardian.
  • One or more spouse was intoxicated or suffered from a temporary state of mental illness or incapacitation. If proven, this would imply the spouse lacked the mental capacitation to give informed consent during the ceremony.
  • One of the parties uses misrepresentation to deceive the other into entering the marriage. A clear example would be if Person A told Person B they were Pregnant, then Person B acquires proof that the pregnancy never existed.
  • One or both parties is coerced or agrees to marriage under duress. This is a tough one to really prove, for instance, being financially under duress and marrying a wealthy spouse would not be considered for annulment.  However, if you had proof that you were being physically threatened to enter a marriage, you may be granted an annulment.

Voidable marriages differ from void marriages in the respect that they require a more stringent burden of proof, they may be considered valid unless otherwise contested, and they do not affect the legitimacy of offspring produced by the marriage.  Respondents of an annulment based on voidable circumstances may submit a counterclaim, which would result, if upheld, in an annulment becoming a petition for dissolution (divorce).

If granted, neither of the parties can assert property rights of a spouse. Neither inherits from the other on the basis of marriage, and neither has a claim to the other’s benefits, such as healthcare, life insurance or retirement. Also, the Court will not intervene or rule on the division of property, real or otherwise.

Whether you are seeking an annulment or more likely, a divorce, the attorneys of Massey & Duffy, are here to serve you.  Call our office at (352) 505-8900 for a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss your case with an attorney licensed in Family Law.

Navigating Divorce during the Holidays:  A Guide To A Civil Season

Next week is Thanksgiving, which will officially kick off the 2015 Holiday Season.  Holidays are stressful for every family and especially so for families going through divorce, separation or child custody disputes.  Even if you and your partner are not on good terms, there are some ways to mitigate the impact on yourself and your children.  If you or your spouse/former spouse have received an order from the court stipulating child custody or support for the holidays, please review it with an attorney.  Many custody agreements stipulate holidays and visitation times.

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  1. Makes a List of what holiday events and traditions are important to you.

There will be a lot of opportunities over the next two months to make very special and enjoyable memories for you and your family.  Try and plan ahead so your Christmas Eve party does not become a family feud.  Make a list of the important dates and times that you want to focus on so you have an idea what is worth fighting over.  Some families have large gathering on Christmas Eve or a big Christmas Dinner.  If you have young children, Christmas morning might be your hold card.

  1. Approach your Partner First

No one wants to have the uncomfortable conversation of who gets the kids and when.  It is important to make the attempt early before the stress begins to get overwhelming.  This first move also gives you an advantage as your partner has likely not planned out his/her priorities and may give you an edge on getting what times are most important.

  1. Leave Room for Negotiation

Understand that your partner may be as interested in seeing your kids open their presents or having Thanksgiving with them as much as you do.  Be open to compromise, without sacrificing your own happiness.  Meal times can be adjusted and arrangements made to accommodate both parties.  Also talk to your children and see what is important to them, it might surprise you how mature and thoughtful they can be.

  1. Try not to Project Your Own Feelings

Children are professionals at observing their environments.  Before they could talk or understand words they were watching your body language and responding to the tone of your voice.  Try to be positive, if not for your own emotional health, do it for theirs.  Avoid having arguments with your partner in front of them, even if it is over the phone.  Keep your sarcasm and comments to a minimum.  With that in mind, be up front about plans for the holidays, give them plenty of time to digest the information and they will be more comfortable when the day comes.

  1. Enjoy Yourself …… Responsibly

No matter the circumstances, it is best to focus on the holiday and not the divorce.  Child support, custody disputes and all the rest of the grisly details can wait until January.  Surround yourself with supportive friends and family and try to make time for yourself.  That being, said try and make smart decisions.  Many times a DUI, or emotional argument will be brought up with the judge in court.  Keep your text and posts on social media positive.  Your humility and grace will pay big dividends later.  This is the season for giving, being thankful and most of all, family.  Life doesn’t always deal a fair hand, but you can choose which cards to play.

Happy Holidays from the Law Office of Massey & Duffy, PLLC.  If you or your loved ones are experiencing a divorce during the holidays, please call our office at (352) 505-8900 for a consultation today.