April 21st, 2023
Annulment vs. Divorce in Washington State: What Are the Differences?
When you enter into marriage, you face the future with optimism and hope. While many marriages stand the test of time, some couples drift apart gradually or confront an obstacle they cannot overcome. If you are struggling with a disintegrating relationship, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and confused about your options. The prospect of divorce can be daunting for many people, and you may not feel prepared to move through the steps quite yet. As you face an uncertain future, consider enlisting the guidance of a compassionate and knowledgeable Seattle divorce lawyer to help you understand your options. Some couples find that seeking an annulment works best for their situation, while others may decide to move forward with a divorce. This post will explore the differences between an annulment and divorce in Washington state and what steps you can take to start laying the foundation for a bright and stable future.
Filing for Divorce in Washington State
Most couples wishing to end their marriage elect to pursue a divorce. Essentially, divorce refers to the legal process of dissolving a marriage. As a no-fault divorce state, Washington does not require the parties to provide a specific reason for seeking a divorce. Either spouse may file a petition for dissolution of marriage with the court and have the documents served on the other party. Even when both spouses are in full agreement about the terms of their separation, Washington requires all divorcing couples to honor a mandatory 91-day waiting period before the court finalizes the divorce. Whether you and your spouse arrive at a divorce agreement through mediation or through more contentious negotiations, you will no longer be legally married at the end of the divorce process. You should work with a seasoned and caring divorce attorney to ensure that you obtain the financial security you need to begin your life’s next chapter with a solid and secure foundation.
Understanding the Annulment Process
An annulment is another way to end a marriage in Washington. At the conclusion of this process, it renders the marriage invalid—meaning that the marriage will technically never have existed under the law. Annulments are often chosen for social or religious reasons, and they come with several restrictions and rules. These strict requirements mean that annulments are typically available in Washington only under very specific circumstances.
Filing the Petition to Invalidate (Annul) Marriage
You will need to complete and file a Petition to Invalidate (Annul) Marriage to initiate the annulment process. The petition will include basic information, such as the date and location of your marriage, the names and birth dates of any children you have, and the date you last resided together. You must also provide a specific reason for pursuing an annulment. Washington only allows couples to seek an annulment in certain circumstances.
Grounds for Seeking an Annulment
There are only a few circumstances in which Washington State allows a married couple to seek an annulment. As you complete the Petition to Invalidate (Annul) Marriage, you must select one or more of the following grounds for seeking the annulment:
- You are close relatives who are prohibited from marrying under the law;
- One or both of you were not old enough to marry at the time of your wedding;
- One or both of you were legally married to another person at the time of your wedding;
- One or both of you were mentally incapable of making the decision to marry;
- One spouse married because of pressure, force, or fraud; or
- You were married outside of Washington, and the laws of that location render your marriage void.
You will need to prove that you qualify for an annulment under one or more of the qualifying grounds in order to move forward with an annulment request. This can be a challenging process, so reach out to an experienced Seattle lawyer for support.
Identifying the Most Appropriate Course of Action
Most marriages can be dissolved through a divorce or legal separation. However, if your religion prevents you from remarrying until you have obtained an annulment, you can discuss your options with an attorney. The annulment process can be challenging to navigate, as it involves stricter requirements. Spouses do not need to prove grounds for pursuing a divorce, but they will have to do so when seeking an annulment. The best way to ensure you end your marriage as smoothly as possible is to work with a trusted and compassionate family law attorney who will listen to your concerns and answer your questions. Together, you and your attorney will lay the groundwork for a bright and stable future for you and your children.
Reach out to the Hemmat Law Group by calling (206) 682-5200 to speak with a caring and experienced Seattle divorce attorney.
With over thirty years of experience, Steven A. Hemmat is dedicated to providing competent legal advice in all of his practice areas — family law, general civil litigation, personal injury and probate.