Thousands of people choose to end their marriages every year. Many Washington residents assume that divorce is their only option. Annulment, however, is another avenue for couples who wish to dissolve their marriage. The annulment process can be confusing, leading many people to seek assistance from an experienced family law attorney.
At ZafiroLaw, a skilled Seattle annulment attorney can simplify the process of seeking an annulment. Leveraging our years of experience and knowledge of Washington family law, we help our clients successfully obtain an annulment. For more information about your situation and whether you are eligible for a declaration of invalidity of marriage, consider contacting our Seattle office today at (206) 309-9645.
What Is a Marriage Annulment?
An annulment is a legal procedure that effectively cancels a marriage. When a marriage is annulled, it is considered to be entirely null and void. From a legal perspective, it is as if the marriage never happened. Washington state law does not use the term annulment, however. Rather, Washington refers to this process as “invalidity of marriage,” which is described in RCW 26.09.040. As the name suggests, when a couple obtains a declaration of invalidity of marriage, it has been determined that the union was invalid from the onset.
Annulment Vs. Divorce
While both processes effectively dissolve a marriage, they are different from a legal perspective. During a divorce proceeding, couples are required to split their property and assets, and make decisions about how custody and support will be managed after the termination of the marriage. This is different from annulment, where these decisions do not occur. In the case of annulment, the property is typically returned to the original owner and debts are split equally between the spouses.
Moreover, it is more difficult to obtain an annulment in the state of Washington. Nearly all couples can obtain a divorce simply due to irreconcilable differences, but this is not the case with an annulment. Instead, a marriage can only be declared invalid (annulled) under specific circumstances, which is why many individuals turn to a Seattle annulment attorney for guidance.
How Do I Get an Annulment in Seattle?
To get an annulment in Seattle, you must first prove that you have met the requirements to obtain a declaration of invalidity of marriage. According to RCW 26.09.040, couples are able to pursue annulment if one of the following are true:
- Incompetence: One or both of the spouses were unable to legally consent to the marriage due to incapacitation or intoxication.
- Bigamy: It has been determined that one or both spouses is currently in a marriage or domestic partnership with another person.
- Underage: Either party was underage at the time of marriage. In Washington, a person must be at least 18 years of age to get married or 17 years of age with parental consent.
- Fraud: One spouse defrauded the other concerning an essential aspect of the marriage. In this context, some examples of defrauding the other spouse include failing to disclose that the person has a sexually transmitted infection or cannot engage in intercourse or, that one party knew they were pregnant at the time of marriage and did not tell their spouse.
- Duress: One spouse was forced into the marriage due to duress or coercion.
- Consanguinity: It has been determined that the spouses are closely related by blood.
It is also important to note that, in some situations, the courts will look to see that the spouses did not continue to voluntarily cohabitate once the extenuating circumstance was no longer present. For example, if one spouse continued voluntarily residing with their spouse once they were of legal age or upon the discovery of fraud, an annulment would not be possible.
Once one or more of the aforementioned circumstances have been proven, it is possible to seek an annulment. To initiate the process, the person seeking the annulment will file a Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity with the King County Superior Court Clerk. This petition should include the following information:
- Names of the petitioner and their spouse
- The location where the marriage was entered into, as well as the date
- Last known residence of each spouse
- When the petitioner and their spouse last resided together
- The legal reason why annulment is necessary
After submitting the petition and other relevant documentation, spouses will be required to attend a hearing before a judge to state why annulment is necessary and confirm final orders regarding parenting plans and child support.
Obtaining a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage
Having practiced family law for several years, we often receive questions regarding how to obtain a declaration of invalidity of marriage. The following are two of the most frequently asked questions we have received from current and prospective clients.
Can You Get an Annulment Without the Other Person?
As long as you are able to prove that the marriage was invalid based on one of the previously mentioned circumstances, you can get an annulment without the other person. Either spouse in a marriage is able to pursue a declaration of invalidity of marriage. As long as both spouses are alive and at least one spouse resides in Washington state (or is stationed here with the military), it is possible to obtain an annulment.
How Long Do You Have to Annul a Marriage?
Most annulments occur shortly after marriage takes place. However, there is no time limit in Washington on when a person can seek an annulment. As long as the marriage wasn’t ratified, meaning the couple did not continue living together once they realized that one of the aforementioned circumstances, then it is possible to obtain an annulment.
Contact a Seattle Annulment Attorney at ZafiroLaw Today
Successfully obtaining an annulment is a difficult process, riddled with strict legal requirements and paperwork. It is essential to avoid mistakes while filing for an invalidity of marriage, which can delay the process or result in the inability to annul the marriage altogether. An experienced Seattle annulment attorney from our team can help you obtain a declaration of invalidity of marriage quickly and easily. To learn more, consider contacting our office today at (206) 309-9645.