Although it's less romantic to think of marriage in the context of the law, a marriage is essentially a legal contract made between two people. This contract grants each spouse certain rights and imposes certain responsibilities on each as well. Given the serious nature of marriage, each state has a variety of requirements for a couple that wants to get married. Although these are specified by state law, engaged couples generally must qualify for marriage based on age, legal capacity, and consent.
Same-Sex Marriage in Washington
Some states have laws on the books prohibiting marriages between same-sex couples. However, with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, such laws became invalid. Washington's laws specifically state that "marriage is a civil contract between two persons." Washington also specifies that any laws which use gender specific terms such as husband and wife are to be construed as gender neutral and apply to same-sex spouses.
Washington Marriage Laws at a Glance
Statutory language is rarely straightforward, which is why reading an overview of a statute can be very helpful. In the following table you can find a brief overview of marriage laws in Washington as well as links to relevant statutes.
Washington Revised Code Section 26.04.010, et seq. (Marriage)
A person must be 18 years old to get married; however, a 17-year-old may get married with parental consent. Also, an individual may get married under the age of 17 if approved by a superior court judge (based on a showing of necessity).
A marriage is prohibited when:
- Either party has a living spouse or registered domestic partner (unless the registered domestic partner is the other party to the marriage); or
- The spouses are relatives closer than second cousins (whether whole or half-blood).
If a spouse was incapable of consenting to the marriage (because of age or legal capacity) or if their consent was obtained through force or fraud, that person can seek to have the marriage voided.
Washington Revised Code Section 26.16.010, et seq. (Rights and Liabilities - Community Property)
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Washington Marriage Laws: Related Resources
If you'd like more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit the links below.
Have Specific Questions About Washington Marriage Laws? Ask an Attorney
While the procedure for getting married may be fairly straightforward, the legal rights and responsibilities of married couples may not be. If you're thinking of getting married and have questions about the procedures or effects of being married in Washington, it's a good idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area.