Annulment

In the State of Washington, an action for the annulment of a marriage is often called the action for "Invalidity of Marriage." These actions can be brought when there are no children, when the wife is pregnant, or when there are dependent children born during the relationship.

The term "annulment" means a court-ordered dissolution of an invalid marriage. In Washington, the annulment is known as a "Decree of Invalidity," it nullifies a marriage from its inception. An annulment is granted in situations where no valid marriage exists because of some legal defect.

Both a divorce or a declaration of invalidity can be used to end a marriage. The legal effect of a "declaration of invalidity" means that there was never a valid marriage in the first place.

Attorneys for Annulment in Seattle, Washington

Contact an experienced family law attorney in Seattle, Washington, to learn more about actions related to annulment or to have a domestic partnership declared to be invalid. Find out more about the declaration of invalidity and the effects of a declaration of an annulment in this state.

Our attorneys for annulment in Seattle, Washington, have handled cases throughout both Seattle and Kent in King County and throughout Everett in Snohomish County.

Call (206) 712-2756 to discuss your case today.


Grounds for the Declaration of Invalidity in Washington

The ground for the declaration of invalidity in Washington are found in RCW 26.04.130 which provides:

When either party to a marriage shall be incapable of consenting thereto, for want of legal age or a sufficient understanding, or when the consent of either party shall be obtained by force or fraud, such marriage is voidable, but only at the suit of the party laboring under the disability, or upon whom the force or fraud is imposed.

The different grounds for a "declaration of invalidity" include:

  • fraud - when one spouse defrauded the spouse about something essential to the marriage such as being able to have sexual intercourse, being pregnant by another man, or hiding a sexually transmitted disease acquired during another relationship);
  • incompetence - when one spouse was mentally unable to consent to the marriage because of insanity, intoxication or incapacitation;
  • force - when one spouse got married only because of physical force or threats of violence;
  • duress - when one spouse was coerced into getting married;
  • underage - when one spouse is too young to be married (under 18 years old or under 17 years old with a parent's consent);
  • bigamy - when one spouse has another living husband or wife; or
  • incest - when the spouses are related as brother and sister or parent and child.

For being underage, incompetent, incompetence, force, or duress, if the spouses continue to live together once the condition is gone, then the marriage won't be declared invalid for this reason.

The statute is read to only allow a party to the defective marriage to initiate the suit. The only exception to this rule is a collateral attack after the death on a common law basis when "exceptional circumstances indicate fraud of the grossest kind" coupled without an apparent opportunity to detect or correct the inequity during the lifetime of the deceased spouse.


The Process to Have a Marriage Declared Invalid

In the State of Washington, the first step to have the marriage declared invalid involves filing "Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity” in the superior court of the county where one spouse lives. The petition must include the name of the spouses, the names of any dependent children, the location of the marriage, and the last time the parties lived together.

In addition to asking the court to invalidate the divorce, the annulment can also ask for other relief such as the division of property, alimony, child custody, visitation, or child support.

After the petition is filed, the other spouse must be served with a copy. The judge in the Superior Court will hold a hearing so that evidence and argument can be presented to show why the marriage should be declared invalid. If the judge agrees, then the court will enter an order called a "declaration of invalidity."


The Legal Consequences of an Annulment in Washington

If the marriage is declared invalid, then the court essentially finds that no valid marriage ever existed, although the court can still grant other forms of relief that typically result in a divorce such as the division of property, child custody, visitation, or child support.

Any children born in an invalid marriage are considered to be legitimate in Washington with the right to be supported by or inherit from the parents.


Additional Resources

Washington Law on Annulment for Declaration Concerning Validity - Read the Revised Code of Washington under Chapters 26.04 and 26.09 to find the Petition to have marriage or domestic partnership declared invalid or for a judicial determination of validity. Learn more about the procedures, findings, grounds, and the legitimacy of children. Find a sample form for the Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity.


This article was last updated on Monday, October 23, 2017.

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