Annulment Of Marriages In Washington

I Have Married and Want to End Our Relationship. Is there an Alternative to Divorce?

Yes, you may qualify to ask the court for a Decree of Invalidity. This is the formal mechanism that Washington State utilizes to annul a couple's marriage. This effectively erases the marriage as if it never existed. This does not mean that other matters, such as children or property, vanish from the courts control (see below), but for practical purposes it can mean everything for the requesting party.

*Domestic Partnerships are also included and can be declared to be invalid under the same circumstances. Also see the Divorce discussion for information on a petition for legal separation.

Who Can File for A Decree of Invalidity?

Either spouse, or their guardian if they are incapacitated, may file for a Decree of Invalidity. In addition, the children, or the former spouse may file in the case of a prior marriage that was not dissolved.

I Have Been Married A Short/Long Time. Is There a Deadline for Filing?

No, there is no deadline for filing your action for a Decree of Invalidity. Washington State will grant your request if you qualify under one of the factors for granting a Decree of Invalidity, regardless of the times spans involved.

The important thing to remember though is that your future conduct can result in "validating" an otherwise voidable marriage. For example, if you can claim that you were brought into the marriage through fraud or deceit going to the fundamentals of the marriage, but decided to remain in the marriage for a period of time afterwards and live as husband and wife, your conduct may ratify the marriage requiring a divorce action to be filed.

Generally, longer marriages are harder to get successfully invalidated because certain claims are weakened (fraud, duress, incapacity or age). Certain defects in the formation of the marriage can be cured, but consanguinity and prior marriages are generally fatal to the formation of a valid marriage; regardless of the future conduct of the parties. In the specific case of prior marriages, it may be possible to have the prior marriage formally invalidated, making it possible to ratify the new marriage without any negative consequences.

I Was Married in Another State/Country, Can I Still Get a Decree of Invalidity?

Yes, Washington State law will apply to your marriage if the jurisdiction is proper. Additionally, the other jurisdictions laws may broaden the horizon of opportunities to seek an annulment of your marriage.

Under RCW 26.09.040 if the court finds that the marriage contracted in a jurisdiction other that Washington State, was void or voidable under the law of that jurisdiction, and in the absence of proof that the marriage was subsequently validated by the laws of that place or a future domicile of the parties, Washington will declare the marriage invalid.

This does allow for the opportunity to broaden the circumstances that would permit the court to rule in favor of an annulment. For example, other state laws may allow couples to obtain an annulment if the marriage is never consummated.

What Happens to My Children's Legal Status? Or Property?

The children's status is not affected by the Decree of Invalidity. With each marriage that is formally concluded there are 5 (five) general factors: 1) The Divorce/Marriage itself, 2) Child Custody, 3) Child Support, 4) Property Distribution, and 5) Spousal Maintenance.

When a marriage is declared invalid this affects the status of the parties' marriage, but the issues of Child Custody, Child Support, Property Distribution and Spousal Maintenance will remain essentially the same. The court will still have the authority to distribute the parties' property under the trial judges broad discretion granted to provide a "fair and equitable" distribution.

The court also retains the authority to make rulings based on the "best interests of the child." The parties' marital status may affect life insurance, inheritance, and retirement benefits to name just a few. The degree these issues are relevant depends on the factual circumstances of the parties.

Is There A Waiting Period Involved?

No, there is no required waiting period for a Decree of Invalidity to be issued. The States interest in requiring a 90-day waiting period for the Dissolution of a Marriage rests with the noble objective of giving couples time to reconsider and amicably reconcile.

When the marriage itself was invalid it can be argued that the defect in the formation of the union prevails over such noble goals; and the parties have a right to have the validity of their union determined in an expedient manner.

Practically speaking, the more agreement that the parties can reach; the quicker the final resolution of their action is going to be. This doesn't mean that the court looks favorably upon these actions. Don't be fooled by some of the websites that make promises on their ability to get your marriage annulled. The courts are going to require significant proof prior to granting an order that dissolves a civil union.

This is a legal discussion not legal advice. If you are contemplating an annulment, or have questions concerning one, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney about your specific facts.

We're Here For You

If you believe that you might need to annul your marriage, our attorneys can help you learn more about the process and the particular options available to you. To meet with one of our experienced lawyers, please call 253-220-7386 or send us email to arrange your free consultation. Our office is conveniently located in the Tacoma Armory Building.