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Washington Annulments
Annulments in Washington

Washington state’s version of annulment is called a declaration of invalidity, which means the court has ruled that there was never a valid marriage. Declarations of invalidity are only granted when some legal defect makes the marriage invalid from the start.

The Revised Code of Washington, Chapters 26.04 and 26.09 describes the Washington law on annulment.

Grounds

Washington recognizes the following seven grounds for annulments. They are:

  • underage, when a partner is too young to be married;
  • bigamy, when a partner has another living husband or wife;
  • incest, when the partners are related more closely than first cousins;
  • incompetence, when a spouse was mentally unable to consent to the marriage because of insanity, intoxication or incapacitation;
  • duress, when one spouse is coerced into marriage;
  • fraud, when a spouse defrauded the other about something essential to the marriage; and
  • force, when one spouse got married only because of threats or physical force.

Special conditions apply to certain grounds. They include:

  • In Washington, a person must be at least 18 to get married, or at least 17 with parental consent. The marriage will not be declared invalid when one spouse was underage at the time of the marriage but continues to live with the other spouse after turning 18.
  • The marriage will not be declared invalid if a spouse was incompetent at the time of marriage because he or she was insane, intoxicated, or incapacitated but then continues to live with the other spouse after they are able to consent.
  • For a marriage to be declared invalid based on incompetence, one partner must be impaired to the point that he or she cannot understand the marriage.
  • For a marriage to be declared invalid on grounds of fraud, the misrepresentation must be directly related to the marriage. In other words, without the fraud, the marriage would have never happened, such as hiding impotence, a venereal disease, or a pregnancy by another man.
  • For a marriage to be annulled because of force or duress, the force or duress had to exist at the time of the marriage. When spouses freely continue to live together after the force or duress is gone, annulment on this ground is not possible.

Invalidity means that no valid marriage between the partners ever existed; however, the court, in declaring a marriage invalid, can nonetheless issue the same orders made in a divorce in connection with child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division.

Children of invalid marriages are legitimate in Washington, and have the right to both support and inheritance.

Procedure

In Washington, the petitioner needs to file a document called a Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity in the Superior Court of the county where either partner lives.

The petition lists the full names of the partners, and each person’s last known address, the names of any children and birthdays, the place and date of marriage, and the date the parties last cohabited. It also states the legal grounds for the petition, and any desired relief concerning child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division.

After filing the petition, the petitioner arranges service to the respondent. The court clerk’s office can explain the options to serve the respondent, including options if he or she lives out of state or cannot be found.

The superior court holds a hearing where the petitioner proves the legal grounds for invalidity. If the judge believes the argument, he or she signs a declaration of invalidity.

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