There are no statutes in Florida governing annulment, but the courts are empowered to annul marriages in certain limited circumstances.

The simplest cases are those involving “void” marriages, marriages that were invalid from the start.  These include bigamous or incestuous marriages, marriages where one party is permanently mentally incapacitated and, until recently, homosexual marriages.  Because void marriages are illegitimate, the parties technically do not need to obtain an annulment, although doing so is the best course of action because it establishes in the public record that the parties are no longer married.  Void marriage can never be ratified or made legitimate by the actions of the parties.

In contrast are marriages that the courts consider “voidable.”  These include situations where the marriage was entered into involuntarily (either by duress or because one spouse perpetrated a fraud on the other), where one spouse was temporarily mentally incapacitated (by illness or intoxication), or where one spouse was underage and did not have the proper parental consent.  These marriages can be annulled so long as they are not ratified by the actions of one or both parties.  Until these marriages are annulled they are treated as legitimate for all other legal purposes.

The most common reason for seeking an annulment is an allegation of fraud.  To serve as grounds for an annulment, the alleged fraud must be of the type that goes to the essence of the marital relationship.  Such fraud includes where a husband induces his wife to marry solely to gain citizenship without her knowledge, or where a spouse hides his or her sterility or impotence from the other until after the marriage.  Lying about where one graduated from college, on the other hand, would not be the type of fraud that could serve as the basis for an annulment.

Although many people (and practitioners) mistakenly believe that any marriage can be annulled if it has not been consummated, this is not the case.  Lack of consummation can be evidence in support of another reason for annulment, such as fraud, but the fact that a marriage has not been consummated alone is insufficient grounds for an annulment.

Importantly, however, the fact that a marriage was consummated acts as a total bar to obtaining an annulment based on fraud.  (See, for example, Adler v. Adler, 805 So. 2d 952 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001)).  Perhaps counterintuitively, this bar applies even if the marriage was consummated only prior to the injured party learning of the fraud.  In such cases, the parties are limited to dissolving the marriage through divorce.

Finally, temporary support and attorney’s fees may be awarded to either spouse during the pendency of the annulment proceedings based on equitable principles, but permanent support (i.e. alimony) is not available except potentially to the innocent spouse.  A trial court may resolve property disputes as well as child-related issues in connection with an action for annulment.