Annulment is an alternative to divorce. Although not widely used, it does have it's place in the law -- it nullifies a marriage that either was legally invalid from the start or voidable for some reason.
In practical terms, an annulment means a marriage never officially took place. In some cases, it is sought for religious reasons. In other cases, it's a means of protecting the property and assets of one of the people seeking the annulment.
In Florida, you can get an annulment if you discover that you are genetically related as an brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew to your spouse. You can also get an annulment if you can prove that your spouse is still legally married to someone else. In those cases, the marriage was prohibited by law and wouldn't have been allowed if the situation had been known to the court.
The remaining ways to get an annulment are a little more difficult:
- An annulment can be sought if one member of the couple was mentally incapacitated at the time of marriage. These are typically sought by concerned relatives and usually involve either an older person with dementia or a younger person who has been declared in need of a legal guardian.
- Annulments can sometimes be obtained if one or both spouses were too inebriated or high to actually consent to the wedding.
- An annulment can be obtained if one or both spouses weren't of the legal age and lacked the required parental consent for the marriage to take place.
- An annulment can be granted on the grounds that one spouse committed fraud. For example, one person conceals his or her inability to have children knowing it is of importance to the other person.
Since annulments are usually done soon after marriage, it avoids a lot of property-division hassles. Each spouse walks away with his or her own assets and debts. If they did happen to run up a debt or acquire an asset in that short time, they can split it evenly -- just as if they were friends (although sometimes it takes a little help from the court).
This can make annulment a particularly attractive option if, for example, your 99-year-old grandpa with dementia and a trust fund marries his 24-year-old nurse.
An attorney can give you more information on how an annulment can help with property division.
Source: FindLaw, "Florida Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws," accessed Aug. 24, 2017