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An annulment of a marriage is finalized when the court enters a Decree of Invalidity. In essence, this decree states that the marriage was invalid from the start. There are a limited number of valid reasons you can use to justify asking for an annulment. For this reason, an annulment will not be a reasonable option for the vast majority of people seeking a divorce. Further, courts in Washington State do not invalidate marriages easily.

If, after reading this article, you feel as though you perhaps have a case for filing an annulment, contact our Bellevue annulment attorneys today for a free consultation. Our knowledgeable lawyers will discuss the details of your case with you and provide legal analysis to help you make an informed decision. The high standard by which Washington State Courts judge these types of cases means having an airtight legal argument to support your contentions is crucial in maximizing your likelihood of success.

Valid Reasons to Request an Annulment

The reasons under which one party to the marriage may request the courts invalidate said marriage are outlined in RCW 26.09.040 (4)(b)(i). The valid reasons noted in this provision can be generalized to:

  1. One party to the marriage was too young
  2. There is a prior undissolved marriage or domestic partnership for one or both parties of the marriage
  3. Reasons of consanguinity, or if the parties share at least one parent with each other
  4. If one party lacks the capacity to consent to the marriage
    1. Can be due to mental incapacity generally – i.e., a disability, sickness, etc.
    2. Or due to being affected by an incapacitating substance like alcohol or other drugs.
  5. If one party was induced to enter into the marriage by force or duress
  6. By fraud involving the essentials of marriage
Explanation of Rules

Reasons one through three listed above are rather straightforward, and you can probably imagine scenarios pretty easily where one of the rules could be applied. If a party is underage, still married to another person, or blood related to their spouse, it’s likely the court will invalidate the marriage if requested to.

The fourth provision on the list is a little less clear. The question comes down to what “capacity” means in the context of this provision. For the purposes of this provision, capacity can be understood as meaning the person having the ability to comprehend both the nature and consequences of their actions. Obviously, just because someone has a mental disability does not mean they automatically lack the capacity to consent to getting married. Nor does drinking a few alcoholic beverages automatically mean you are incapacitated.

Due to this, the court’s decision in these cases is based on the specific details presented to it. This means the presentation of facts and formulation of arguments from those facts are crucial. Our Bellevue annulment attorneys are well versed in crafting succinct legal arguments that clearly lay out the facts in service of achieving our client’s goals.

The fifth provision relates to situations where one party was forced into entering the marriage. The word “duress” in this context is defined as pressure exerted upon a person to coerce them into doing something they otherwise would not do. For example, if someone had information that might ruin your reputation and they threatened to publish it unless you married them, this would be an instance of “duress.” You’re only marrying them to ensure the alternative, personally harmful, situation does not occur.

The final provision, or justifiable reason, one can ask for an annulment if they find out their spouse lied about some fact that was foundational, or “essential,” to the marriage. For example, let’s say you are intimate with someone but not interested in marrying them. Then, one day that person tells you they’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness and will die soon. They ask to get married as they do not want to die alone, and out of compassion you agree. Once you get married, it turns out your spouse lied and was never actually sick.

If you never actually wanted to marry that person, nor would have married them absent them being “sick,” you could have a valid claim under provision six to have your marriage invalidated. It’s extremely important to note though, the “fraud” or lie must be the material cause of your decision to marry that person. Which is to say, the lie or fraud was the only reason you decided to go through with the marriage when you otherwise would not have.

As discussed, the courts do not grant annulments easily or without a strong legal argument analyzing the context of the situation against the relevant provisions. If you believe any of the provisions explained above apply to your marriage, retaining an attorney is the first step. The provisions related to annulments are highly subjective, but our attorneys in Bellevue are annulment experts who can help guide you through this process. Call us today to setup an appointment for a free consultation on the specifics of your case.

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