Annulments and Invalidating a Marriage
Certain marriages are prohibited, such as marrying a parent or a first cousin. You also can't marry someone else if you remain married to your spouse, even if you are estranged. In order to marry, you need to be unmarried and of legal age, or obtain permission from your parents. Sometimes, people want to end a marriage, but don't want to get a divorce. In the state of Washington, under these circumstances you would seek a declaration of invalidity rather than an annulment. At Blair & Kim, our experienced Seattle family law lawyers may be able to help you obtain a declaration of invalidity.Annulments and Invalidating a Marriage
There are many different reasons why people want to seek an annulment or invalidate a marriage. Some people regret getting married to a particular person. In other cases, spouses discover something about a spouse after marrying that causes them to feel like they were deceived into getting married. Divorce can be a complicated and expensive procedure. It may be acrimonious, and it may involve a division of property.
In the state of Washington, what would be called an annulment elsewhere is called a declaration of invalidity. The declaration of invalidity voids the marriage, an effect similar to the effect of an annulment in other states since, afterward, it is as if you never married at all. However, it's not always possible to obtain a declaration of invalidity since you must meet certain requirements to get one under RCW 26.09.040.
The basic requirements for obtaining a declaration of invalidity under RCW 26.09.040 are: (1) both spouses must be living, (2) one of the parties is a resident of Washington or stationed as a member of the armed services in Washington. The court also needs to find that one of these situations existed at the time of the marriage: (1) at least one spouse couldn't agree to the marriage because of his or her age or because of the lack of approval from the court or the parents, (2) at least one of the spouses had a previous marriage that hadn't been dissolved at the time of the marriage at issue, (3) the spouses were too closely related to each other (such that their marriage was prohibited), (4) at least one of the spouses didn't have the capacity to consent due to drunkenness or mental incapacity, (5) one spouse was induced to marry by duress or force, or (6) fraud. Those who cannot show their marriage should be invalidated for one of these reasons will need to petition for divorce rather than file a petition for a declaration of invalidity. A skilled family law attorney can help assess whether you will be able to meet one of these requirements.
There's no time limit to seek a declaration of invalidity of a marriage. However, spouses can only obtain the declaration of invalidity if they meet the above criteria and also didn't ratify their marriage by continuing to live together as married people once they realized one of the criteria were present. For example, if they stayed in the marriage after a spouse's mental incapacity passed, they have likely ratified the marriage.
A petition must be filed to obtain a declaration of invalidity. A hearing will be held. The court will have the opportunity to void the marriage where they learn that a requirement of a legal marriage didn't exist when the couple got married.
Accordingly, in these proceedings you will need to be able to show that you had a situation that permits your marriage to be invalidated. Once a court determines a marriage is invalid, it's as if the couple didn't marry in the first place. Where the reason for invalidity is that a spouse has another spouse, a child from the later marriage of the other legal spouse can petition for invalidity.Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney in Seattle
If you are concerned about annulments and invalidating a marriage in Seattle, a skillful, knowledgeable family law attorney can advise and represent you. The lawyers at Blair & Kim represent people in a wide variety of family law, criminal, and civil matters throughout Kings County, Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us via our online form to learn more about your legal options.