What is an annulment?
Annulment is a legal action that cancels a marriage. Unlike a divorce, which ends a marriage, annulment wipes it from the record, so that it effectively never occurred. In Washington State, a person would file a declaration of invalidity if they planned to annul their marriage.
In order to qualify for an annulment in Washington your marriage must be invalid for one of these reasons:
2) Prior Marriage
4) Lacked capacity
5) Marriage By Force
6) Fraud On The Essentials Of Marriage
A marriage can be annulled if either of the individuals are underage. You must be over 18 to marry in Washington without any special permissions. If you are under 17 you need a special license from court. If you are 17 years old, you need parental consent.
Example: Jason and Melissa are both 17 years old and marry without parental consent. Either can request an annulment for an underage marriage. However, this must be done in a timely manner. If they don’t request an annulment until years later, they can’t claim invalidity for being married as minors, since they stayed married once they’d reach adulthood.
A person is not allowed to be legally married to two people at the same time. If you find that your spouse was not divorced from a previous spouse, you can request an annulment. Your marriage would be invalid since the prior marriage or domestic partnership was never terminated.
Example: Matt separated from his first husband Jeff 5 years ago. He believes Jeff filed the divorce paperwork, but Jeff didn’t complete the process. In 2020, he married James. If James finds out that Matt’s first marriage is still active he can request an annulment. This second marriage to James is invalid because Matt cannot remarry until he divorces his first husband.
Consanguinity is the technical term for being closely related. Washington prohibits marriages of anyone more closely related than second cousins. In short, you are not allowed to marry your children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers or sisters.
Example: Jess and Robby were married in April. Robby doesn’t know his birth parents and grew up in an adoptive family. In July, Robby is contacted by his biological father. It turns out, Robby is a first cousin of Jess. Jess and Robby can file for annulment, since they are too closely related.
If you marry while unable to comprehend what you’re doing the marriage can be annulled. You’ll commonly see these when someone marries while heavily intoxicated. This can also occur if someone married who is mentally incapacitated or declared insane.
Example: Stu went to Las Vegas for a bachelor party and woke up the next morning with a wedding ring on. He didn’t remember much, but later found out that he’d married a woman named Jade. That day he realized he’d made a big mistake. Since Stu was under the influence of alcohol the marriage can be annulled.
Keep in mind, Stu needs to annul the marriage within a reasonable amount of time. For example, he can’t remain in the marriage for six months and then ask for an annulment. After enough time passes, a court will say he chose to stay married, even after the effects of alcohol wore off, so an annulment is not proper.
Marriage By Force
If you were threatened into a marriage it can be annulled. Commonly the threat is violence, but other serious threats are valid as well. Keep in mind, it’s important to request the annulment once it’s safe to do so. If the threat passes and you wait to file for an annulment it may not be allowed.
Example: Bob and Judy have dated for years, but Judy won’t marry Bob. He’s a mean drunk and it scares her. One afternoon, he stumbles into her home. He’s wearing a suit and tie and is in an aggressive mood. He tells Judy to drive them to the courthouse. He says they’re getting married and warns her not to say no. Judy drives to court and they sign the marriage certificate. Because Judy married under the threat of violence she can annul the marriage once she’s safe and away from Bob.
Fraud On The Essentials Of Marriage
This last option is a catchall. In short, you can annul your marriage if you agreed to marry your spouse based on a major misrepresentation. In other words you were lied to by your spouse and the lie was one of the major reasons that you chose to marry. The statute doesn’t contain specific examples, so you’ll need to consult an attorney if you believe your marriage can be annulled for this reason.Get in touch