What Is The Difference Between Separation vs Divorce vs Annulment in Florida

Knowing Your Options When Your Marriage is in Trouble

The Difference Between Separation vs Annulment vs Divorce in Florida Law [INFOGRAPHIC]If you are having trouble in your marriage, it is important to understand all of your legal options relating to the potential ending or dissolution of the marriage. As a family law attorney in Miami Florida, I advise clients at this stage to consider one of three main options. Legal separation, divorce, or annulment if couples therapy hasn’t worked or for whatever reason is not doable. Understanding the difference between what each of these is conceptually and legally, and how they will impact your life, is critical for making the best decision for you and your family.

Separation

For many Florida couples, a legal separation is the first step toward divorce, or a great way to allow each party to take a step back and really evaluate their feelings. A lot of people find that once they are separated for a time, they realize how much they care about their spouse, and decide to redouble their efforts at saving their marriage. Whether the separation helps the marriage, or is a step toward ending it with more peace and certainty, you need to know what it is and is not in Florida from a legal perspective.  

A common misconception is that legal separation is available in Florida. Florida actually has no legal separation as parties are either married or divorced and therefore no lawyer is needed nor is there a do it yourself option legally (you just separate, that’s it). A separation is simply when a couple decides to live apart for a time. Issues with a separation are that none of the legal issues which may be relevant are being handled if there is no court case pending. Custody of children, possession of assets, who is responsible for what expenses, and even child or spousal support can all typically fall apart in a separation. Therefore, this is a tricky time that should be handled with care to ensure that both parties are being responsible with their rights and responsibilities.

It helps to understand that Florida does not require a specific length of time a couple needs to be separated to get a divorce. As long as one spouse resides in Florida for more than six months, the couple can obtain a divorce. The only waiting period required, is the judge at the court normally waits at least 20 days to hear a case after the petition of dissolution of marriage has been filed. Therefore, it is up the couple to determine how long they want to be separated before they obtain a divorce.

Annulment

An annulment is similar to a divorce in that it will end your marriage, but it is quite different in how that is done. Rather than severing a legal marriage, an annulment is a legal recognition that the marriage never occurred in the first place. Annulments in Florida are only possible in some specific cases such as when the marriage wasn’t legal in the first place for some reason. In almost all cases, getting a marriage annulled is only possible when the marriage was very brief and there are no children involved. If you qualify for an annulment, it can be worth it to seek this option and essentially the marriage will never have happened from a legal standpoint, but for most people, this won’t be possible and can actually be more time consuming than a divorce. There are several other reasons why a person may be qualified to annul their marriage. A few examples are:

  1. Fraud – A marriage is voidable if it was procured through deceit or fraud. In other words, there is fraud if one spouse misrepresented a material fact that was vital to the reason the couple got married. Examples of such misrepresentations are, if a spouse has a chronic venereal disease and either lies about the severity of the disease or conceals the disease all together, if the spouse conceals a prior marriage, or if a spouse lies or conceals their ability or intent to have children;
  2. Bigamous or Incestuous – A marriage is void if the marriage is bigamous or incestuous;
  3. Under age of Consent – A marriage is void if one or both spouses are under the age of consent, and entered the marriage without parent or guardian consent;
  4. Permanent Lack of Mental Capacity –  A marriage is void if one or both spouses lacks the requisite mental capacity required to enter a marriage. The marriage is void if at the time of the ceremony, a spouse lacked permanent mental capacity. An example of permanent mental capacity, is if one of the spouses suffers from insanity;
  5. Temporary Lack of Mental Capacity – A marriage is voidable if at the time of the ceremony a spouse lacked temporary mental capacity. An example of temporary capacity, is where a spouse was intoxicated or drugged at the time of the ceremony;
  6. Physical Disability –A marriage is voidable if a spouse has a physical disability that affects the ability to consummate the marriage, to have children or impotency; or
  7. Duress – A marriage can be voided if a spouse entered a marriage under duress.

Although a marriage may be voidable, if the marriage was consummated then the marriage cannot be annulled and the couple must go through regular divorce proceedings. If you qualify for an annulment, it can be worth it to seek this option with or without a lawyer, but for most people, this won’t be possible and can actually be more time consuming than a divorce.

Divorce

A divorce is the legal end to a marriage. Of the three options, this is by far the most common, and the one that people are most familiar with. While some people opt to get divorced pro se (no attorney), due to the various complications involved with assets, children (if applicable) and more, hiring a divorce lawyer helps ensure the arrangements are fair to you and a mutual understanding of each spouse’s responsibilities post-divorce is put in writing. During the divorce process, the two parties (and the courts) will work out all the details of who will get what, who has what responsibilities, and much more. Some divorces can be quite quick, simple, and uncontested, while others are extraordinarily complex, lengthy, and contested. It is up to the spouses to determine how to proceed with their divorce. The different options on how to approach a divorce are:

  1. Simplified Divorce- A simplified divorce is when both spouses do not have children, are not seeking alimony and have no joint debts, assets, or liabilities. There is nothing that ties them as a married couple to each-other;
  2. Uncontested Divorce- A uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree that the marriage is broken, have no children, and agree on division of property, assets, and debts; or
  3. Contested Divorce- A contested divorce is when there is one or more issues that are unresolved between the spouses. Issues can involve a disagreement on custody, alimony, property, or other martial issues. Florida is no fault divorce state. This means that any spouse may seek a divorce by stating that the marriage is irrevocable. There is no proof needed to get a divorce and a spouse can bring a divorce without the consent of the other’s spouse.

Don’t Make a Rash Decision, Learn Your Options and Protect Your Rights

Ending a marriage is, by its nature, a very emotional experience. Whether you are seeking a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, it is not something you want to attempt on your own. Having an experienced Florida attorney at your side will not only help to ensure everything goes smoothly, but also provide you with objective guidance that can help you to avoid common mistakes. Contact the Miami / South Florida office of the Vasquez de Lara Law Group [Link to CONTACT US page] to discuss each of these options and see which one is best for you.

 

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