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Pope Francis Fast-Tracks Some Catholic Annulments

The Tampa Tribune is reporting that Pope Francis has reformed the process by which many Catholics receive annulments from the church.  The reforms take a process that oftentimes took well over and year and, in many cases, shortens that length down to 45 days.

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One of the reforms does a way for the need of an exhaustive investigation when both spouses request the annulment (or neither actively opposes it).

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Florida Same-Sex Annulment

As Florida does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, some judges have interpreted the state’s ban as precluding them from granting same-sex divorces.  I am involved in a case in which two women married in Massachusetts, moved to Florida, and separated.  They utilized the interdisciplinary collaborative process to come to a full settlement agreement and filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Tampa.  The judge ultimately denied their petition, determining that she did not have jurisdiction to dissolve that which the state does not recognize.

And we appealed.  This has become the first divorce matter in Florida to challenge Article I, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution banning recognition of same-sex marriage.

In the meantime, the gay marriage ban is still in effect.  So is there anything that same-sex spouses can do to legally end their marriage in Florida?

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Does Florida Recognize Common Law Marriage?

You may have heard about common law marriages. Generally speaking, they are unions in which the couple has not been licensed for marriage by the state but have lived with one another for a certain period of time and have voluntary held one another out to others as being a married couple.

Prior to 1968, couples could enter into a common law marriage in Florida and have all the rights and responsibilities that come with a state-licensed marriage. However, with the passage of section 741.211 of the Florida Statutes, couples could no longer enter into common law marriages in Florida. The current iteration of section 741.211 reads as follows:

Common-law marriages void.—No common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, shall be valid, except that nothing contained in this section shall affect any marriage which, though otherwise defective, was entered into by the party asserting such marriage in good faith and in substantial compliance with this chapter.

However, this statute does not abolish Florida’s recognition of all common law marriages.

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Polygamy: A Basis for Annulment

Rose McDermott at the Wall Street Journal reports that cases of polygamy are becoming more common in Western countries:

Polygamy—or more specifically polygyny, the marriage of one man to more than one woman—has been widespread in human history. And it is becoming increasingly common, particularly in Muslim enclaves—including in Paris, London and New York.

A 2006 report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights reported that approximately 180,000 people were living in polygamous households in France. For decades, France allowed entrance to polygamous immigrants from about 50 countries where the practice was legal. When the French government banned polygamy in 1993, it tried to support the decohabitation of such couples if a wife wanted to move into her own apartment with her children.

In Britain, where immigration laws have banned the practice for longer, there appear to be about a thousand valid polygamous marriages, mostly among immigrants who married elsewhere, such as in Pakistan. Such families are allowed to collect social security benefits for each wife, although the government has apparently not counted how many are doing so.

In the United States, where numbers are more difficult to come by, anecdotal reports indicate underground communities of polygamists in New York City, particularly among immigrant communities from West Africa.

In Florida, one person cannot legally marry someone who is currently married to someone else.  Further, Florida does not recognize polygamist “marriages” that occur outside of the state or country.

So, does a person who has been in such a relationship, either knowingly or unwittingly (i.e., one party did not know that the other party was already married), have legal protections?

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Section 61.079, Florida Statutes

Premarital agreements.—

(1)SHORT TITLE.—This section may be cited as the “Uniform Premarital Agreement Act” and this section applies only to proceedings under the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

(2)DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:

(a)“Premarital agreement” means an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage.

(b)“Property” includes, but is not limited to, an interest, present or future, legal or equitable, vested or contingent, in real or personal property, tangible or intangible, including income and earnings, both active and passive.

(3)FORMALITIES.—A premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.

(4)CONTENT.—

(a)Parties to a premarital agreement may contract with respect to: Read more