Annulment In Washington – The dissolution of a marriage is a life-altering decision, with legal implications that can significantly impact the lives of the individuals involved. While divorce is a commonly understood concept, there is another avenue available for couples seeking to terminate their marriage: annulment. Annulment, often referred to as a “declaration of invalidity,” differs from divorce in that it renders a marriage null and void as if it never existed in the eyes of the law.
In the state of Washington, the process of annulment follows specific legal guidelines, which individuals contemplating this alternative need to understand thoroughly. From the grounds for annulment to the procedural intricacies, gaining a comprehensive understanding of this legal process is crucial to navigating the system effectively.
This Eastcoastlaws.com article aims to shed light on the basics of annulment in Washington, equipping readers with the essential knowledge to make informed decisions about their marital status. We will delve into the key factors involved, such as the grounds for annulment, the time limitations, and the potential legal consequences of seeking an annulment.
Whether you are considering an annulment or simply seeking to expand your knowledge of family law, this guide will serve as a valuable resource. By exploring the fundamental aspects of annulment in Washington, we aim to provide clarity and empower individuals to navigate this often complex legal territory with confidence.
What is a Declaration of Invalidity?
A declaration of invalidity and a divorce are two different ways to dissolve a marriage, notwithstanding the similarities. A declaration of invalidity, as its name suggests, signifies that a court has determined that there was never a valid marriage in the first place, whereas a divorce ends a valid marriage.
What are the Grounds for a Declaration of Invalidity in Washington?
In order to have your marriage declared invalid in Washington, you must have a legitimate “ground” (cause). Washington acknowledges these seven grounds:
- Underage – a spouse was too young to be married in Washington
- Bigamy – a spouse has another living husband or wife
- Incest – the spouses are related, closer than first cousins
- Incompetence – a spouse was mentally unable to consent to the marriage; insane, intoxicated, or incapacitated
- Duress – one spouse was coerced into getting married
- Fraud – a spouse defrauded the other about something essential to the marriage, and
- Force – one spouse got married only because of threats or physical force.
Other details about these legal grounds:
To get married in Washington, you must be at least 18 years old, or at least 17 with parental permission. The marriage won’t be deemed invalid if one spouse, who was underage when they wed, stays with the other spouse after turning 18 years old.
The marriage won’t be deemed invalid if one spouse lives with the other after they are able to consent but was incompetent at the time of the wedding because they were insane, inebriated, or otherwise incapable.
One partner has to be so damaged that they couldn’t comprehend the marriage itself for a marriage to be ruled invalid due to incompetence.
Fraud must be directly connected to the marriage in order for the marriage to be deemed invalid due to fraud. In other words, if it hadn’t been for the fraud, there would have been no marriage. Hide the fact that one is unable to engage in sexual activity, conceal a venereal condition, or conceal a pregnancy by another man are a few examples of deception that could render a marriage invalid.
Force or coercion is required to be present at the time of the wedding for it to be deemed invalid by one spouse due to it. The marriage will not be deemed invalid if the couple lives together voluntarily after the threat of coercion or duress has passed.
How Do I Get My Marriage Declared Invalid?
You must submit a “Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity” to the superior court of the county where either you or your spouse resides in Washington.
You and your spouse’s entire names should be listed in your petition, along with each spouse’s last known address. Include your children’s names and birthdates if you have any. You must specify the time and place of your wedding as well as the date you last shared a residence. You should specify the legal justifications for wanting your marriage to be deemed invalid. Everything else, including child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property partition, should be specified in your petition as well.
You must serve a copy of your petition on your spouse after filing it. If your spouse is out of state or cannot be identified, the superior court clerk’s office where you file your petition can explain your alternatives for serving them on them.
You will have to present legal justifications for the invalidity of your marriage at a hearing before the superior court. The judge will sign a declaration of invalidity if the court decides you have made your case.
Effect of an Invalid Marriage
When your marriage is ruled invalid by the court, it indicates that you and your spouse have never had a legal marriage.
The same orders that are made in a divorce, including child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division, can be made by the court that invalidate your marriage.
In Washington, the offspring of invalid marriages are nevertheless regarded as legitimate. Legitimate offspring are entitled to both parents’ financial support and inheritance.
To read the full text of Washington law on annulment, see the Revised Code of Washington, Chapters 26.04 and 26.09.
Contact information for each of the Washington superior courts is here.
Find a sample Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity here.