All marriages come to an end, whether the spouses die or terminate the marriage. In Florida, marriages can end in one of three ways: divorce, annulment of death of a spouse. While divorce and annulment both end a marriage, the similarities between the two end there. Florida law dictates what divorces and annulments are, who can receive one and when they can be granted.
Marriage is a civil contract allowed by law. The 2009 Florida Statutes Title XLIII Chapter 741 makes specific provisions for anyone who wants to get an annulment or a divorce in the state. These laws exist outside of religious concerns and are granted as a matter of law only. Couples can also seek religious divorces or annulments as their religion allows, but these are not the same as legal divorces and annulments.
Annulments happen either the moment a marriage takes place or after one party petitions the court, while divorces happen only after a spouse files in court. Florida Statute 741.21 prohibits incestuous marriage. Because of this, any marriage entered into by those related in lineal consanguinity are void, meaning it is immediately annulled. However, if a couple gets married where the woman is under 18 and failed to get the consent of both parents, the marriage is voidable. This means the couple can petition the court for an annulment, but it is not automatically annulled as a matter of law.
Divorces and annulments terminate a marriage and allows the couple to get remarried. However, an annulment effectively erases the marriage in the eyes of the law, terminating it as if it never happened at all. A divorce does not.
Annulments and divorces can be granted only in specific circumstances, but those grounds are different. Florida couples can seek a divorce if the marriage has become irretrievably broken. These "no-fault" grounds do not require one party to show the other did anything to cause the breakdown of the marriage. On the other hand, Florida law allows annulment where at least one of the parties lacked the capacity to enter into the civil marriage contract, whether because of age, mental incapacity, fraud or other impediment.
Divorces and annulments can involve court orders of child support and visitation. Whenever a child is a part of a marriage, or when a child is part of an issue the court is asked to rule upon, Florida courts can issue orders based on what they believe is in the child's bests interest. This ruling can, for example, award custody to one or both parties regardless of what the parents desires are.