In Washington State, there are two primary ways to end a marriage: a divorce and an annulment. A divorce is much more common, as couples can only pursue an annulment under limited circumstances.

If you are currently married and have questions about how you can dissolve your marriage, speak with a family law attorney about your options. In the meantime, learn more about the differences between an annulment vs. divorce.

What is divorce?

A divorce is the legal process of dissolving a marriage. The majority of couples in Washington State who wish to terminate their marriages seek a divorce. In some cases, couples may seek a legal separation, which is not the same as a divorce and does not end the marriage.

During divorce proceedings, couples make decisions about how to divide property, custody of their children, spousal support payments, and more. If they are unable to make these decisions, a judge may make the decisions for them.

While a divorce does terminate a marriage, it does not declare the marriage invalid, nor does it remove it from the record. Nearly all married couples can seek a divorce if they wish, which is not the case for an annulment.

What is annulment?

An annulment is very different from a divorce and has a number of strict regulations surrounding the process. An annulment terminates a marriage by rendering it invalid. At its completion, the marriage will technically have never existed under the law.

The grounds for civil annulment in Washington State are below:

  • Underage: one person was under legal age at the time of marriage (18 without parent’s consent)
  • Bigamy: intentionally marrying another while already in a marriage
  • Incest
  • Insanity or incompetence at time of marriage
  • Marriage based on coercion or force
  • Marriage based on fraudulent actions

If any of the above have occurred prior to or during the marriage, then the couple may petition for annulment. You can find a petition for annulment at You must also file a petition with the court to pursue a divorce.

What’s the Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

When you are looking at the end of your marriage, you probably have a lot of questions.  You are at the point where you know that you will not be able to reconcile, but you don’t know your best option.  Many couples are confused regarding the differences between annulment and divorce.  Both processes will end a marriage in Washington, but they are not the same.

An annulment is a legal procedure that dissolves a marriage. If a marriage is annulled, it means that it is nullified from its inception.  An annulment applies when there is some legal defect that keeps the marriage from being valid.

Most people are already familiar with the legal process known as divorce.  With a divorce, the marriage is terminated because it has been deemed “irretrievably broken.”  Either spouse can pursue this legal option to end the marriage.  During the divorce process, family support, child custody and the allocation of assets and liabilities will be determined.

For more information on this topic, read the article, Three Ways Marriages Are Ended in Washington.

Contact Molly B. Kenny for Family Law Help in Washington

If you are currently married and would like to annul your marriage or get a divorce, talk to a lawyer who can help you weigh a divorce vs. annulment for your particular situation.

Your lawyer can help you file a petition and handle other important paperwork and filing requirements. Your lawyer can also help you pursue the most important details of the process (child custody, property division, etc.). Our team at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is ready to help you now. To schedule your case consultation today, fill out our contact form or call our Bellevue office at 425-460-0550

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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