Can I Get An Annulment?


My wife and I got married a month ago.  While we were on our honeymoon, I discovered text messages on my wife’s phone which led me to suspect that she’d been unfaithful to me just days before our wedding.  I confronted her about it, and she admitted that she cheated on me for much of our 3 year relationship.  Since we got back from our disastrous honeymoon, I’ve been staying with friends and have no intentions of living with my “wife.”  I feel completely deceived by her, and that our wedding and marriage were a sham.

Is there any way I can have my marriage annulled?


Probably not.  Washington state law does provide for a marriage or registered domestic partnership to be declared “invalid“ by a court, but only under very narrow circumstances.  Those circumstances include:

  • When one of the parties is a minor – both parties to a marriage must be 18 or older at the time that the marriage ceremony is performed; however, the parties may “ratify” the marriage by continuing to reside together after the minor party reaches the age of 18;
  • When one of the parties is already married or in a domestic partnership - you can only be in one marriage or domestic partnership at a time so any previous marriage or domestic partnership must have been terminated by the death of the other spouse or a legal divorce;
  • When there are “reasons of consanguinity” - under Washington, persons who are closely related by blood cannot legally marry each other or become domestic partners;
  • When one of the parties lacked capacity to consent to the marriage or domestic partnership either due to mental incapacity or intoxication – like any contract, a marriage or domestic partnership can be voided if one of the parties was disabled by either a mental illness or intoxication to the point that he or she cannot understand the nature and consequences of the decision to marry.  Note that this type of invalid marriage can also be “ratified” if the spouses continue to live together after the incapacitated person attains the requisite capacity;
  • When one of the parties was coerced into the marriage by force, duress, or fraud involving the essentials of marriage – Washington courts apply a very strict evidence standard to prove force, duress or fraud in all cases, including allegations of an invalid marriage. The court will need to see “clear and convincing” evidence in order to making such a finding; this is a much more stringent standard than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard in other civil cases.   This type of invalid marriage can also be ratified by continued cohabitation after the alleged misconduct is discovered.
A sordid example of what kind of facts would constitute fraud or duress , as well as lack of capacity, can be found in the case Murphy v. Lint.  In that case, the Washington Supreme Court found that there was sufficient evidence that a cancer stricken woman’s consent to marry a man with whom she had had a casual dating relationship was obtained when she was significantly disabled by her illness, and also by both fraud and duress.

The court noted that the purported husband had systematically isolated the woman from her friends and family while she was dying of cancer.  In addition, the court found that the significant cognitive side effects caused by her illness deprived the woman of the capacity to consent to the marriage.  Indeed, one expert witness testified that  in reviewing the woman’s medical and other records, he “came very close to being absolutely certain that she could not understand in any way or comprehend what was happening [when she married the man in a Las Vegas wedding ceremony], let alone what the meaning or significance of that was.”

In short, it is only when a marriage or domestic partnership was formed in a way that violates  Washington law that a court will consider it null and void.  Most couples – even those whose marriages did not last through the honeymoon – have to seek a divorce to legally end their relationship.