Divorce, Annulment and Separation in Florida
Florida is known for being one of the states with the highest divorce rates. The decision to divorce your spouse should be given much thought and consideration, and it is important to be familiar with Florida law regarding divorce and whether there are any other available options. It’s quite possible you will have a lot of questions that consider the possible grounds for divorce, whether or not you can get your marriage annulled, and even the specifics of a legal separation if you are not fully ready for a divorce. It is important to understand the difference between divorce, annulment and separation in Florida.
According to Florida Statute, there are only two grounds for a divorce: the marriage is irretrievably broken or one of the parties is deemed mentally incapacitated. A judgment of dissolution of marriage cannot be granted on any other basis.
An irretrievably broken marriage exists is when you and your spouse agree that the marriage is broken and there is no possible way of fixing the marriage. If there are no minor children and the spouses do not deny the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court will enter a judgment for dissolution. The process is different if there is a minor child born in the marriage and/or the spouses deny the marriage to be irretrievably broken. Under either circumstance, the court can do any of the following:
- Order the spouses consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, etc;
- Provide a length of time, not to exceed 3 months, to allow the spouses to reconcile; or
- Take any other action that may be in the best interest of the parties.
Keep in mind that the court has the discretion to deny the request to dissolve the marriage if the court does not find the marriage is irretrievably broken; however, it is very rare that a divorce will not be granted even if there are children or the other party does not agree to it. The court in most cases will accept one party’s claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Mental incapacity is the second grounds for divorce, but there is a very important accompanying limitation. A dissolution of a marriage will not be granted unless the alleged mentally incapacitated spouse has been adjudged as incapacitated for the prior three years.
An annulment is an order to terminate a marriage because the marriage is void. Unlike a marriage where the request to dissolve is not based on the validity of the union, an annulment questions whether the marriage was every valid to begin with. Florida case law provides that a marriage can be annulled when a person was under the qualifying age. If parental consent is never obtained, then that is grounds for annulment. Also, a marriage can be annulled for mental incapacitation or if one or both of the parties were under the influence, and thereby unable to provide valid consent. Physical inability to consummate the marriage or consent of marriage through fraud or deception is grounds for annulment, as well. Many parties seek a divorce over an annulment because Florida statutes specifically provide a step-by-step procedure for divorce. And since annulments are governed by common law court rulings, it can be difficult to establish the burden of proof and adhere to the court proceedings.
Unlike other states, Florida does not allow spouses to file for legal separation, which is an arrangement between the spouses to remain married but live apart. However, there are ways a person can achieve a similar result while utilizing a different avenue.
Partner with a Tampa Bay divorce attorney at All Family Law Group, P.A. to get effective solutions to your family law issues. Call us to discuss your situation at 813-816-2232 or contact us online for an initial consultation at no charge.