Understanding Annulment in Florida
When two individuals say their vows, they anticipate a future together, but sometimes a marriage is not legally valid from the start. In Florida, one such situation where a marriage may be deemed invalid is if one spouse is already legally married to someone else, known as bigamy. This article explores the grounds for annulment in Florida, with a focus on cases involving bigamy.
The Legal Grounds for Annulment
In Florida, an annulment is a legal decree that essentially erases a marriage by declaring it null and void, as if it never happened. Unlike divorce, which ends a legally valid marriage, annulment applies to unions that are considered invalid from their inception. The grounds for annulment include:
- Lack of consent due to mental incapacity or the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- One or both parties being underage without parental consent.
- Fraud or misrepresentation.
- Impotence that was not disclosed before the marriage.
Bigamy: A Clear Ground for Annulment
Bigamy occurs when an individual is legally married to one person and subsequently marries another. Under Florida law, bigamy is not only a ground for annulment but also a criminal offense. When you discover that your spouse was already legally married at the time of your wedding, this fact alone establishes your marriage as void ab initio — void from the beginning.
Case Examples of Bigamy Leading to Annulment
Historically, cases such as Henderson v. Henderson (1961), where the husband had a living spouse at the time of marriage, have set precedents that reinforce the illegality of bigamy and provide clear justification for annulments. More recent cases continue to reflect this stance; thus, individuals who find themselves in a bigamous marriage have strong legal recourse to seek an annulment.
Navigating the Annulment Process
If you suspect bigamy and seek an annulment in Florida, it's essential to file a petition for annulment in the circuit court where either party resides. The process will require you to present evidence that your spouse was legally married at the time of your marriage. This could include marriage certificates, divorce decrees indicating no finalization before your wedding, or other legal documents proving the existence of a prior marriage.
Legal Assistance and Moving Forward
Given the serious implications of bigamy on marital status and legal rights, it's advisable to seek legal assistance. A family law attorney can guide you through the annulment process and help protect your interests. Once an annulment is granted, both parties are typically restored to their single status and may remarry in the future.
To learn more about obtaining an annulment in Florida or if you have specific questions related to your circumstances, consider consulting with a qualified family law attorney or visiting the official website of the Florida Courts at www.flcourts.org.