Invalidating Marriages in Washington

Posted on March 25, 2024 12:35pm
Invalidating Marriages in Washington

Understanding Marriage Validity

Marriage validity refers to the legal recognition of a marital union in the eyes of the law. It is crucial for a marriage to be valid to ensure that both parties are afforded the legal rights and obligations that come with matrimony. Common misconceptions often stem from the misunderstanding that simply living together or having a religious ceremony without a legal civil contract constitutes a valid marriage. In reality, the precise requirements for a valid marriage vary from state to state but usually include elements such as legal capacity, consent, and often a formal ceremony officiated by a recognized authority.

Understanding the ins and outs of marriage validity can be a crucial factor in ensuring your rights are protected when entering into a union. In this blog, we are sharing about the process for obtaining a declaration concerning validity and the legal implications of entering into this type of legal document.

Invalidating Marriages: An Overview

What is sometimes referred to as an "annulment" is called a Declaration of Invalidity in Washington state. It is granted rarely and only under few specific circumstances:

  • If either you or your spouse were under the age of 17 at the time of marriage;
  • If you failed to obtain the required parental or court approval if under age 18;
  • If either you or your spouse lacked the capacity to understand the marriage contract;
  • If you or your spouse were already legally married to someone else at time of your marriage;
  • If you or your spouse consented to the marriage, but did so as a result of force (because threatened) or fraud (because lied to); or
  • You and your spouse are too closely related to each other by blood (first cousins or nearer relations).

Even if you meet one of these requirements, in some circumstances Washington courts may still find the marriage valid unless you can show that you and your spouse have attempted to discontinue the marriage by living apart. While a declaration of invalidity states that a marriage was invalid from its beginning, Washington courts still may enter a parenting plan for children, divide property, and make financial orders. Further details regarding the grounds for a Declaration of Invalidity can be found in RCW 26.09.040.

Invalidating a marriage can offer certain benefits over a divorce. Crucially, these processes treat the marriage as if it never existed legally, which can have significant implications. This treatment can be desirable in situations where cultural, religious, or personal beliefs stigmatize divorce. Moreover, invalidation may provide an avenue for escaping a marriage that was entered into fraudulently or under conditions that violate the requirements of a valid marriage.

The Process & Legal Impact of Obtaining a Declaration Concerning Validity

Obtaining a Declaration Concerning Validity involves a series of steps that culminate in a court ruling on the validity of a marriage. These steps typically include:

Filing a Petition: The interested party must file a petition in the Superior Court in the county where either spouse lives.

Serving the Petition: The petitioner must ensure that other interested parties are served with the petition in accordance with Washington law.

Court Proceedings: The court will hold a hearing to consider all relevant evidence and arguments.

Court Ruling: The court will issue a ruling declaring the marriage either valid or invalid.

The legal implications of obtaining a Declaration Concerning Validity are far-reaching. If a marriage is declared invalid, it is treated as if it never existed legally. This impacts everything from property rights to legal standing in future litigation and can even affect eligibility for certain forms of government assistance. For those involved, understanding these consequences is crucial in order to navigate the legal landscape and make informed decisions.

Experienced Family Law Representation

Given the complexities and potential ramifications associated with questioning the validity of a marriage, it is of paramount importance to seek professional legal advice. A seasoned family law attorney can provide a thorough understanding of the nuances of the process, the potential outcomes, and their implications. If you have questions about invalidating or dissolving a marriage, contact McKinley Irvin to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.

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