Is My Spouse Allowed to Annul the Marriage Without Telling Me?
When a marriage ends, the typical recourse to make the dissolution of marriage official is by filing for a divorce. This entails the division of the couple’s marital assets and debts, as well as arrangements for child custody and child visitation, in cases where there are minor children involved.
However, divorce is not the only legal recourse that couples can take. There is, in fact, another method, which essentially removes the existence of the marriage from all records, as if it never occurred in the first place. This method is called an annulment, and a Sarasota divorce attorney like Matthew Z. Martell can also help you with it if you qualify.
First of all, there are two types of annulment. Annulling a marriage can be done civilly through the legal system or religiously. A religious annulment will require an official decree from the church or clergy declaring the nullity of marriage. Legally, an annulment can also be granted by the court system, and in this process, the marriage is deemed to have not existed at all.
Can a Spouse Annul a Marriage Without Knowledge of the Other?
A marriage is a contract entered into by both parties of their own free will. This means that ending that legal contact requires both parties to know at least officially of what’s going on in terms of the legal actions being taken to end the marriage. Different states have different legal requirements, but essentially, the other spouse must be legally and properly notified about the annulment proceedings through either process service or service by publication. Process service is being officially served with legal papers by a licensed process server. Everyone is basically familiar at least through TV with the phrase “you’ve been served” and what it entails—someone showing up usually at your home and officially serving you with legal paperwork for a lawsuit. The other way to serve someone is by publishing certain legal notices in the newspaper. This is not favored by the court system, especially in family law cases, and you have to go through many steps first to try to find the person that you want to serve. You then have to essentially prove to the Court that you took numerous required steps to find this person but still were not able to find him or her. At that point, you can proceed with service by publication
Failure to properly notify the other spouse of the initiated annulment proceedings could lead to the dismissal of the case. That’s why a Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice divorce lawyer near you like Matthew Z. Martell can give you legal advice to make sure your spouse is properly legally notified of your annulment lawsuit.
What if the spouse is out-of-state or nowhere to be found? It’s highly possible that the couple is already estranged by the time a decision to file an annulment is made. However, as any good divorce attorney in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, or Venice would highly recommend, it’s still most prudent to exert any and all possible efforts to find the spouse so they can be informed of the proceedings through private process service.
In dire situations where you truly cannot find your spouse (which is rare in this day and age), the filing spouse can resort to placing ads in the local newspaper if only to exercise due diligence in providing proper legal notice of the annulment. If you are unsure about what next steps to take as far as notice requirements for an annulment are considered, it’s better to speak to a Sarasota family law practitioner like Attorney Matthew Z. Martell for advice.
Annulment Laws in Florida
Technically speaking, annulment is not explicitly addressed as a method of ending a marriage in the Florida statutory state laws. However, previous rulings from Florida’s higher-level courts, otherwise known as case law precedents, are considered binding, and thus come to form the recognized Florida laws when it comes to annulment cases.
A key element to annulment is the voidability of the union. There are two ways a marriage can be deemed void. One is when it is void ab initio, or right from the start. The other is when it is voidable, which means that while the marriage may have been valid at the onset, something might have occurred along the way that puts it in an avoidable position.
A marriage considered void from the onset can be on account of fraud (e.g.- you married John Smith but really his name is Sam Jones and he is a career criminal con man), duress (e.g.- a shotgun wedding), or lack of properly requirements, such as having an officiator who does not have the legal license to carry out the ceremony (e.g.- married by a friend who allegedly has an online pastor’s license and/or never file for a marriage license).
Meanwhile, a voidable marriage can have different grounds, such as bigamy, incest, underage, or mental incapacity of one party at the time of the marriage. The most common grounds for annulment by far is bigamy.
How a Divorce lawyer Can Help
A divorce lawyer near you in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice such as Attorney Matthew Z. Martell can help give legal counsel as to which legal option- divorce or annulment- is most suitable for your case. In the vast majority of situations, divorce is the only legal option. But if you truly qualify for an annulment, divorce lawyers such as Attorney Matthew Z. Martell can help you work out how to best approach your annulment case, help file and complete the legal requirements in a timely manner, and develop a strong legal case for your annulment application. Seek a consultation for your proposed annulment at the earliest possible instance to get the legal process going properly and to maximize your chances at ultimately being granted an annulment. Contact the Law Offices of Matthew Z. Martell, P.A. at (941) 556-7020 to schedule your reduced rate Initial Office Consultation.