An annulment proceeding in Washington is legally referred to as a “Declaration Concerning Validity of Marriage.” During this proceeding, the court determines whether the marriage is invalid. Washington state law dictates the types of marriage that are permitted and the circumstances under which annulment is granted. For example, a marriage between family members closer than second cousins is not permitted; this union would be considered invalid. In addition, a declaration of invalidity may be granted if a previous marriage or a state-registered domestic partnership (SRDP) remains valid. A previous marriage or SRDP remains valid until the death of the spouse (partner) or a dissolution of the marriage (partnership) is complete.
State Registered Domestic Partnership (SRDP)
In 2012, same-sex marriage became legal in Spokane. Unless a couple chose to legally dissolve their SRDP before June 30, 2014, the partnership was automatically converted to a marriage; however, there is one exception to this rule: If at least one of the spouses turned 62 years or older by June 30, 2014, the couple was permitted to retain their State Registered Domestic Partnership status. This exception was crafted for those seniors who would lose their social security and/or pension benefits upon marrying.
A Declaration of Invalidity
Divorces and annulments are both used as a means to end a valid marriage. However, when an individual receives a declaration of invalidity, the court has ruled that the marriage was never valid and legally never happened.
Legitimacy of Children
Any children who are born during a marriage that is later voided remain legitimate. These children have the right to support and inheritance from both parents.
Grounds for Annulment in Washington
In the state of Washington, an individual must have a reason that is acceptable to the court for requesting the marriage be declared invalid.
In Washington, there are seven grounds for which a declaration of invalidity may be granted:
One spouse is currently married to another person or has a domestic partner.
One spouse was not legally old enough to enter into marriage. To legally marry in Washington, an individual must be at least 17 (with the consent of a parent) or 18 years old. If a spouse did not receive parental consent to marry and was not at least 18 years old when the vows were exchanged, he or she may request an annulment. However, if he or she continues living with the spouse after turning 18, the marriage will not be annulled.
The spouses are family members that are closer in relation than second cousins (half or whole blood).
One spouse was not mentally stable at the time of the marriage. In order for a marriage to be annulled due to incompetence, one spouse must have been impaired to the point that he or she did not understand the marriage itself. A marriage will not be considered invalid if the spouse who was incapacitated, intoxicated, or insane at the time of the marriage continues to reside with the other spouse once he or she is competent and able to consent.
A spouse agreed to the marriage because he or she was threatened or physically forced to do so.
One spouse was pressured into marriage.
For a spouse who wants a marriage declared invalid due to duress or force, the duress or force had to exist at the time the vows were exchanged. However, if the spouse continues to reside with the other spouse freely once the duress or force is gone, the marriage will not be annulled.
One spouse defrauded the other spouse about something that was essential to the marriage. If a spouse wants a marriage declared invalid due to fraud, the fraudulent act must be related to the marriage itself. This means that without the fraudulent act, the union would never have existed.
For example, fraudulent acts that may lead to an annulment include withholding information that:
He or she has a sexually transmitted disease;
He or she is unable to engage in sexual intercourse; or
She is pregnant by another man.
Steps for Requesting an Annulment in Spokane
To request an annulment, an individual must follow certain steps. First, one must file a “Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity.”
The Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity should list:
The names of the petitioner and the petitioner’s spouse.
The date the marriage was entered into.
The location where the marriage was entered into.
The last known residence of each spouse.
The date the petitioner and his or her spouse last resided together.
Legal grounds for requesting the marriage be declared invalid.
If there are children, the petitioner needs to list the children’s names and their birth dates. The petitioner should also include in this document any other issues they would like the court to address.
These issues may include:
Once the document is filed, the petitioner’s spouse receives a copy.
A hearing will be held by the superior court. During this hearing, the petitioner needs to prove why the marriage should be annulled.