If you live in Washington State and have decided to leave your marriage, you might think that divorce is your only option. In some cases, it is. Under the right circumstances, however, you may be eligible for an annulment. Here is what you need to know about a divorce vs. annulment in Washington to decide which option is right for you.
What is an Annulment?
Washington state doesn’t use the term “annulment,” instead classifying the legal action as a “declaration of invalidity.” The Declaration of Invalidity will terminate a marriage and make it invalid. In short, it’s as if the marriage never happened under the law.
Washington State Law on Annulments
If you’d like to end your marriage, a declaration of invalidity might sound attractive. But, it’s only available under certain circumstances. In Washington State, the acceptable ground are:
- Underage – one person was under 18 without a parent’s consent
- Bigamy – intentionally entering into a marriage while already married to someone else
- Incompetence or insanity at the time of marriage
- Marriage based on fraudulent actions
- Marriage based on force or coercion
If any of these conditions are true, you have the option of petitioning the court for the declaration of invalidity. You will also need to serve this on your spouse and prove your case in court.
Advantages of an Annulment Over Divorce
If you qualify for a declaration of invalidity, this option offers several advantages over pursuing a divorce in Washington State.
Not a Legal Marriage
Perhaps the biggest benefit of invalidating your marriage is that you get a declaration stating that you were never married. A divorce, on the other hand, states that you were married and then had the union legally dissolved.
Invalidates a Prenup
If you signed a prenuptial agreement before this marriage, the declaration of invalidity will also invalidate that agreement and release you from any of its terms.
No Division of Property
Family law judges will typically send all property back to its original owners. So, if you entered the marriage with a significant amount of property, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ll walk away with what is rightfully yours.
Equal Sharing of Marital Debt
When a marriage is declared invalid, the debts accumulated during the course of the marriage are split evenly. This ensures that you won’t get stuck with more than half of the marital debt.
Frees You to Remarry
If you have to go through the annulment process for a marriage, you might not be in a hurry for a repeat performance. But, a declaration of invalidity will give you the freedom to make that choice when the time is right.
Is Legal Separation an Option?
A legal separation is different from both a divorce and a declaration of invalidity. In Washington, this action gives you everything that you would get with a divorce, but you remain married to your spouse.
Some people choose this option when they want to avoid a legal divorce due to religious reasons or because it might jeopardize financial benefits. With a legal separation, you are entitled to other relief such as property and debt division and a Parenting Plan for minor children.
Speak with an Experienced Tacoma Family Law Attorney
No matter which route you take, ending a marriage is neither pleasant nor simple. Whether you think you have grounds for a declaration of invalidity (annulment), divorce, or legal separation, we can help.
The family law attorneys at AB Law have extensive experience advocating for clients that want to end a marriage and start fresh. Contact us now to learn more about our services.