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Decrees of Invalidity (Annulment)

Handled By Our Annulment Lawyers in Tacoma

At Groves Law Offices, our annulment lawyers in Tacoma have more than three decades of combined experience in this area of focus. We will help you with all your family law needs in a timely and professional manner. Call (253) 210-2008 for a free consultation today.

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 court's 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.

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. There are several factors that can determine if a marriage is eligible for annulment, so call us today for a free consultation and we can help you determine your eligibility.

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 time 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 afterward and live as husband and wife, your conduct may ratify the marriage, requiring a divorce action to be filed. Generally, longer marriages are more difficult to successfully invalidate 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 was established in a jurisdiction other than Washington State, was voidable or void under the laws of that jurisdiction, and in the absence of evidence that the marriage was subsequently made valid 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 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 judge’s 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 to which 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 state’s 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 agreements 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.

Disclaimer:

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.

Please call our experienced annulment attorneys in Tacoma at (253) 210-2008 for a free consultation.

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