What is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment?


In Florida, divorce and annulment are two legal ways to end a marriage. Whether you should seek a divorce or an annulment depends on the circumstances of your relationship and how the marriage was formed. Below, we discuss the differences between a divorce and an annulment, and which may be the best choice for you when dissolving your marriage.

What is Divorce?

 A divorce is the most common way to end a marriage in Florida. Divorce seeks to end (or “dissolve”) an established relationship by dividing assets acquired during the marriage. Depending on the circumstances, divorced spouses may be entitled to alimony or child support. To file for divorce, you would submit a petition for the dissolution of marriage, including a reason for divorce, with the county court where you reside. Your spouse has 20 days to respond with either a counterclaim or acceptance. Then, you would work with your attorney and the family court to divide your marital property and decide on a custody arrangement if minor children are involved.

What is an Annulment?

Unlike divorces, annulments void marriages as if they never happened. The goal is to get each spouse back to the state they were in before getting married. Since annulments seek to dissolve the marriage as if it did not exist, spouses are not eligible for alimony or property division. An annulment may also invalidate prenuptial agreements. Annulments may be beneficial for religious or personal reasons.

Qualifying for Divorce or Annulment

It is easier and quicker to file for divorce than to annul a marriage. There are only two reasons to file for divorce in Florida: mental incapacity or irretrievable differences. To be granted an annulment, however, you must prove that the marriage was never valid or was formed under defective pretenses. The reasons you may file for annulment include the following:

  • Bigamy
  • Incest
  • Fraud 
  • Temporary insanity
  • Spouse was underage
  • Extreme intoxication at the time of marriage
  • No intention to live as spouses

Which is More Powerful: Annulment or Divorce?

Annulments are more powerful because they completely erase the marriage as if it never occurred. On the other hand, a divorce ends an established relationship and allows couples to divide marital property. Annulments may also be more powerful for those with certain religious beliefs, as parishioners may remarry if the first marriage is annulled.

How Hard is it to Get an Annulment in Florida?

Annulments are rarer than divorces. Annulments are granted if you can prove the marriage was not valid or should have never taken place, like when a spouse was underage, temporarily insane, or too intoxicated to understand the gravity of his or her decision. The process to file for annulment takes longer than a divorce as well. Since there is no legal statute regulating how annulments are granted in Florida, judges use their discretion to individually approve or deny annulment requests.

Why is Divorce Faster than Annulment?

Divorces are faster than annulments because they require less evidence. Voiding a marriage is more complicated than dissolving an established one, so it takes longer. Unlike divorces, those filing for annulment must provide a reason their marriage was invalid, such as mental incapacity or fraud. If the court did not grant the annulment request, the couple would file for divorce and go through those proceedings afterward, which can also lengthen the process.

Remsen Law: Family Attorney in Lake County

Experienced family law attorney Frank P. Remsen is here to help guide you through your divorce or annulment proceedings, including deciding which option is best for you. To discuss your case, call our office at (352) 243-1247, or contact us today.