The Pope's discussions brings up a question that I often get asked: What is the difference between divorce and annulment?
Under Florida law, divorce is the legal dissolution of a valid marriage, most often due to the fact that the marriage is irretrievably broken. By contrast, a marriage may be invalid, and thus annulled, for the following reasons: (i) the parties lacked legal capacity to marry; (ii) the type of marriage is statutorily proscribed; (iii) a party lacked mental capacity to marry; (iv) a party did not consent to the marriage; (v) a consent was wrongfully procured by force, duress, fraud, or concealment; or (vi) a party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage.
Florida courts construe annulment narrowly. Judges are reticent to grant an annulment rather than divorce. However, below are examples of each category of annulment:
- The parties lacked legal capacity to marry- One party was below the age of consent for marriage
- The type of marriage is statutorily proscribed- The parties are immediate family members
- A party lacked mental capacity to marry- A party is drugged and does not remember getting married
- A party did not consent to the marriage- A party is married despite his or her objection
- A consent was wrongfully procured by force, duress, fraud, or concealment- An immigrant marries a U.S. citizen only to obtain a green card, the U.S. citizen is unaware of the reason, and the parties do not consummate the marriage and never live together
- A party lacked the physical capacity to consummate the marriage- A husband is physically unable to have sex with his wife
So, in Florida, marital difficulties may be a reason to seek a divorce; but, as Pope Benedict XVI stated, marital difficulties are not a reason to seek an annulment.
Adam B. Cordover is a Florida family law attorney and managing shareholder of The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A. To learn more about The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A. or to schedule a consultation, call us at 813.443.0615 or visit us online at www.abcfamilylaw.com.
Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.