What is an Annulment, and How Do I Get One?

Some people come to our office hoping that they can annul their marriage. People may want to annul marriage because they regret their decision to marry their new spouse, or because they feel like their marriage was a sham. They want their marriage (and their spouse) to go away and to be able to try and put their life back together. In Washington the process is not called an annulment it is called a determination of validity, but the effect is similar, and unfortunately for these people, is only available in  limited circumstances.

While it is not called an annulment in Washington State, it has the same desired effect. A decree of invalidity makes it as if the marriage never happened. RCW 26.09.040 is the law governing the procedure and requirements necessary for someone to have their marriage declared invalid. The statute requires that both parties to the marriage be living and that at least one of the parties is a resident of the State of Washington (or a member of the armed services stationed in this state).

A declaration of invalidity may be obtained if the court finds that at the time of the marriage one of the following circumstances was present:

  1. One or both of the spouses was unable to consent due to age (or lack of requisite parental or court approval);
  2. Due to a prior undissolved marriage of either or both parties;
  3. Because the spouses are too closely related;
  4. Because one or both parties lacked the capacity to consent either because of mental incapacity or because of intoxication;
  5. One party was induced to enter into the marriage by force or duress; or
  6. Fraud of the essentials of marriage.

In addition to meeting one of the above requirements, the parties must not have ratified their marriage by continuing in the marriage after the defect in the marriage was apparent (like continuing to live in the marriage after reaching the age of majority, or staying in the marriage after intoxication is no longer an issue).

In most circumstances the people wanting to end their marriage will have to go through the traditional dissolution of marriage process. Fortunately, when parties are seeking dissolution of a short-term marriage (especially when the marriage did not produce children) the dissolution process can be relatively brief.

If you think you have grounds for a declaration of invalidity and you would like to have your marriage declared invalid time is of the essence, and you should contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. If you have questions about an annulment, or any other family law issue, please contact us today.

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