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Kevin O'Flaherty

Marriage Annulment is separate from divorce in Iowa. Instead of ending a valid marriage (divorce), an annulment means that there was no valid marriage in the first place. If either of the parties can show the marriage is invalid, you may be able to have your marriage annulled. In this article, we answer the following questions about marriage annulment in Iowa:

  • How can a marriage be deemed invalid in Iowa?
  • How do I get a marriage annulment in Iowa?
  • What does it mean to get my marriage annulled?

How can a marriage be deemed invalid in Iowa?

In Iowa, a marriage can be deemed invalid, justifying annulment on any of the following grounds: 

  • Incestuous marriage – you and your spouse are related by blood. The standard is first cousins or closer in relation. 
  • Impotence – either spouse was impotent when you were married. 
  • Bigamy – you or your spouse was already married at the time you were married. 
  • Incompetence – you or your spouse was legally incompetent and under the guardianship of another party at the time of the marriage. 
  • Under the legal age to marry – you or your spouse were underage at the time of marriage.  


There are additional requirements for some of these grounds to annul a marriage. If one spouse had a previous spouse when the parties were married but that spouse dies, and the current spouses are still living together after the death, the marriage won’t be annulled. Additionally, if current spouses continue to live together after the previous marriage is dissolved, the current marriage won’t be annulled.  


As for underage spouses, if a spouse was under 18 at the time of marriage, and there is proof that the spouse lied about their age, the marriage won’t be annulled unless the underage spouse wants to annul the marriage and can show proof of their real age prior to their 18th birthday. If a spouse is either 16 or 17, they may still have a valid marriage if their parents consent and a judge approves. Should this happen, the marriage will not be able to be annulled in the future. Finally, if a person gets married at 16 or 17 and the judge approves their marriage over the objection of their parents, the marriage cannot be annulled.  


How do I get a marriage annulment in Iowa? 


In Iowa, to get an annulment, you need to file a “Petition for Annulment.” This document is similar to how you would file for a divorce. You must file the petition in the district court for the county where either you or your spouse live and either you or your spouse must have lived in Iowa for at least a year.   


Similar to a divorce, the spouse filing for annulment will be referred to as the “petitioner” and the other spouse will be referred to as the “respondent.” The petition will state which spouse has lived in Iowa for at least a year, and state both parties names, birth dates, and addresses. The petition will go on to state the date of marriage and provide the names and birth dates for any children the parties had together. If there is need for support for either the spouse or the child, that should also be requested in the petition. Finally, the petition needs to state one of the legal grounds above justifying the annulment.  


There will be a hearing in front of a judge where the spouses will have a chance to testify as to the reasons the marriage should be annulled. Should the judge believe you have met the grounds for annulment, it will be granted. If the other spouse doesn’t dispute the annulment, the judge may simply submit an order granting the annulment.  


What does it mean to get my marriage annulled?


If a judge grants the annulment, you and your ex-spouse will be treated as if the marriage never existed. You can legally say that you were never married. Any funds or property the spouses had from the marriage would also be able to be divided by the judge. If one spouse lied in order to make the other spouse believe the marriage is valid, the judge could order the lying spouse to financially compensate the other spouse. 


Finally, a marriage may still be annulled even if the spouses have had children together during the marriage. The court will decide whether the children are legitimately the spouses and, if they are, the judge may require one or both parents to provide financial support to the children. In general, the court will order that children from annulled marriages are legitimate unless it is proven that the children aren’t biologically both spouses.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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