Annulment in Washington, D.C. : Understanding the Process and Ground

In the District of Columbia, an annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void, as if it never occurred. Unlike divorce, which dissolves a valid marriage, an annulment establishes that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place. While annulments are less common than divorces, they can be an appropriate option for some couples who meet specific criteria.

Grounds for Annulment in the District of Columbia

To obtain an annulment in the District of Columbia, one or both parties must prove that the marriage is void or voidable.

Void marriages are those that are inherently invalid. Void marriages are void from the start (void ab initio).

Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are those that may be declared invalid due to certain circumstances surrounding the marriage. You can read the statute governing grounds for annulment here.

The grounds for a void marriage in the District of Columbia include:

  1. Bigamy: If one party entered into the marriage prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage, the marriage is void.
  2. Incest: If a marriage is between close relatives, it is void. Void marriages are not recognized. It is already as if they never happened.

The grounds for a voidable marriage in District of Columbia include:

  1. Fraud or duress: If one party entered into the marriage due to fraud or force, the marriage may be annulled.
  2. Mental incapacity: If either party lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, such as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the marriage may be voidable.
  3. Underage marriage: If either party was under the age of 16 at the time of the marriage, the marriage may be voidable. unless the parties voluntarily continued to cohabitate after turning 16 years old.

Who can file for an Annulment in the District of Columbia?

  1. Either spouse, if they were married or currently reside in D.C.
  2. The parents or guardian of a minor spouse who is under 18 years old
  3. The legal guardian or conservator of a spouse who suffers from a mental impairment

A party can file for annulment in D.C. if they are a current resident of the District of Columbia or of the marriage occurred in the District. It is important to note that D.C. law considers “fault” when deciding whether to grant an annulment. The spouse who is at fault for the grounds of the annulment cannot file the petition; instead, they must file for divorce.


Annulment can be a viable option for couples in whose marriages are void or voidable based on specific grounds. By understanding the process and requirements for obtaining an annulment, individuals can make informed decisions about their legal options when facing a problematic marriage. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified family law attorney to discuss the specific circumstances of your case and determine the most appropriate course of action.

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