The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Florida
In Florida, when a marriage fails, spouses face two potential options; get a divorce or annul the marriage. Divorce is the dissolution of marriage, which upholds the union's legality while also maintaining the documents that prove the marriage existed. On the other hand, an annulment makes a marriage void and invalid, and all records of the occurrence are discarded, meaning the marriage never existed. Annulment cases are filed and handled by the Florida Circuit Courts, and Florida's Family Rules of Procedure govern the court proceedings. Divorce cases are also filed in the circuit courts, and the procedure begins by filing a Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. Although both options end with the same result of the spouses being free to marry again, the primary contrast is that divorce ends a marriage and preserves documents related to the initial union. Annulment deletes all existence of the event from records.
What is a Florida Divorce Decree?
A Florida divorce decree is a document issued by a court that reflects the final judgment from the circuit court where the divorce case was heard. The document has information such as child support, custody, visitation, spousal support, and other information from mutual settlements.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What is an Annulment in Florida?
An annulment in Florida is a court order stating that a marriage is nullified, and all records of its existence are erased. However, marriages can only qualify for an annulment when legal grounds are met. Some of the accepted reasons for an annulment include if the marriage is; bigamous, incestuous, between spouses of the same sex, between underage people, or when a spouse is permanently mentally incapacitated or impotent. Per Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, also known as the Public Records Act, annulment records can be accessed by the public as long as the necessary conditions are met. The repository of annulment records in Florida is the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Annulment vs. Divorce in Florida
Like divorce, the result of annulment is the same as the parties become single and can remarry legally. Another similarity is, the court, which presides over the case, will also determine what happens with issues like child support, custody, alimony, and division of assets. Some of the differences between divorce and annulment in Florida are:
- In a divorce, records of the marriage are maintained. In an annulment, documents of marriage are rendered null and void.
- Reasons for an annulment of marriage are limited to bigamy or when the marriage is the result of fraud, incest, or underage marriage. For divorce, a couple does not need to explain any reason.
- In the case of an annulment, there is no provision for alimony or division of property and assets. In the case of a divorce, couples have to agree on issues like child support, alimony, child custody, and property division.
The basic requirements to push for an annulment in Florida include fraudulent marriage, impotence, incest, bigamy, underage spouse, and mental incapacity. To be eligible for divorce in Florida, one of the parties must be a resident of Florida for at least six months before filing, and also show that the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. Another requirement is to prove that a spouse has been mentally challenged for three years before filing for the divorce.
Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Florida?
The cost of annulments and divorces varies depending on each case's complexity and whether the claim is contested or uncontested. An average contested divorce case costs between $2000 to $7000. Circumstances that affect pricing are children, assets, and expenses, which generally lead to more time in court and more fees on the whole. However, an uncontested divorce, which most times involves less time in the courtroom or no time in the courtroom, is generally cheaper, and the cost could be between $2000 to $4000. Prices are unique to each case, including annulments. Still, divorce fees can be reduced by applying for the divorce filing fee waiver, which allows those without the financial capability to afford their divorce fees to pay a $25 administrative fee, which is a one-time payment. It is possible because the Civil Practice and Procedure Code 57.082 allows those seeking relief from filing fees to apply for a waiver with the Florida Clerks of Court with proof like their net income, assets, liabilities, and debts. So due to the complex nature of annulments and the uncertainties surrounding it, they tend to cost more than divorces in Florida.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in Florida?
An uncontested divorce is when spouses reach a mutual agreement on all fundamental marital issues like custody, visitation, spousal support, alimony, child support, and division of assets and properties. For a divorce case to proceed, one of the requirements includes the residency of either party in Florida for six months before filing for divorce, according to Florida statutes Title VI. 61.021. Florida statutes Title VI. 61.052(1) gives another requirement: the establishment of legal reasons for the divorce like a broken marriage that can't be salvaged, or where a mentally incapacitated spouse is involved.
Where to get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Florida?
To process an uncontested divorce in Florida, fill the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form and submit to the Circuit Court Clerk. Once the petition is filed, it will be delivered to the other spouse, along with a summons. The receiver is expected to respond within 20 days, starting from the day the petition was received. If a reply is not filed, the case will proceed without the spouse's participation. A Family Law Financial Affidavit is to be filled unless the applicant is seeking a simplified dissolution, or there are no dependents involved in the case, thereby forgoing all financial issues. According to Florida Statutes, Title VI. 61.21, if minor children are affected, the applicant has to complete a parenting course before the judge issues a divorce judgment.
Since divorce proceedings are public records in Florida per Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, records of an uncontested divorce can be accessed by the public, unless in cases where there is a court order to seal some part of the files.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How do I get a copy of my Divorce Decree in Florida?
When divorce court proceedings are concluded and the Clerk of court stores the records, reports are sent to the Florida Department of Health through the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The Bureau of Vital Statistics maintains a repository for vital records in the state. Divorce decrees can be obtained from the Clerk of Circuit Court's Office in the county where the divorce occurred. Divorce decrees can be issued by completing an application and mailing it or applying in person at the Vital Statistics office with the appropriate fee of $5 and $10 for expedited service. These fees are payable with cash, personal check, money order, or credit cards. Mailed-in requests may take between three to five working days for records from 1970 to present records. Records generated before 1970 may require more days. Although paying $10 for rush orders could move the whole process along faster. Details required when sending the written request via mail include:
- Full name of the couple on the record
- Date and county, the divorce was approved
- Full name of the applicant
- The mailing address of the applicant
- Signature of applicant
The written request alongside the completed application form and proof of payment should be mailed to:
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics,
P.O. Box 210,
Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How do I get a Florida Divorce Decree Online?
The Florida Bureau of Statistics has a channel where interested persons can receive a divorce decree electronically. To apply, some information such as city, date of divorce, the reason for obtaining the certificate, and the named persons on the records will be required. Also, applicants will have to pay $15 for the first copy of the record and $7 for the processing fee. Each additional copy of the document costs $4. Order can as well be made by calling 1 (877) 550-7330.