Annulment is a commonly used term for a court procedure that dissolves a marriage, treating it as though it never happened. In Washington State, a marriage annulment is called a “Declaration of Invalidity”. Such declarations are granted by the court under specific, special circumstances only. The ruling legally declares the marriage invalid from the beginning, essentially claiming the marriage never technically existed and was never valid. RCW 26.09.040 describes Washington State law on annulment and invalid marriages.
Either party may initiate a Declaration of Invalidity. Unlike divorce, which does not require proof, a Declaration of Invalidity requires that the party who initiates it must prove whatever ground they are alleging. You may file for invalidity if both spouses are alive and if at least one party is a resident of Washington State or a member of the armed service and stationed in the state (RCW 26.09.040). The majority of Declarations of Invalidity take place less than a year after a marriage. It is possible, yet rare, to obtain a Declaration of Invalidity in Washington State after this time frame.
The following are the legal basis for declaring that the marriage is invalid and should be erased. The grounds for a Declaration of Invalidity are described in further detail under RCW 26.09.040:
- If a spouse was mentally unable (incompetent) to consent to the marriage because of mental incapacity, intoxication or incapacitation
- If it is alleged that either or both parties is married to or in a domestic partnership with another person
- If one or both spouses were underage at the time of marriage
- If one or both spouses were underage and did not have parental or court approval at the time of the marriage
- If a party was induced to enter the marriage by force or duress
- If a spouse defrauded the other involving essentials of marriage
- Reasons of consanguinity; If spouses are determined to be closely related by blood
In addition, the court must find that the parties have not voluntarily cohabitated after attaining the age of consent, or after attaining capacity to consent, or after cessation of the force or duress or discovery of the fraud.
In pursuing or responding to a Declaration of Invalidity, you will need to work with a knowledgeable family law attorney. Our family law attorneys are experienced and equipped to help you navigate your individual situation. We recognize that dissolving a marriage is often very complicated and emotionally charged, whether it is through divorce or Declaration of Invalidity. We are here to walk you through the process and minimize undue stress.
Once a marriage is declared invalid, parties must deal with similar issues as would apply to divorcing couples: asset and debt division, child support and parenting plans, spousal maintenance, etc. Our family law attorneys have the expertise and proficiency to handle every aspect of your marriage dissolution. Please contact us today for a consultation .