The Basics of Annulment in Iowa

Wondering if you can get an annulment? Learn about the grounds for an annulment and how to get one in Iowa.

This article provides an overview of annulment in Iowa, including what an annulment is, who qualifies, and the legal effects of an annulment.

Check with the district court of the county where you or your spouse live to see if they have requirements in addition to what's listed below. If you have additional questions about whether your marriage may be annulled, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in for advice.

Overview of an Annulment

An annulment is different from a divorce: instead of ending a valid marriage, an annulment means that there was no valid marriage in the first place. If your marriage was legally invalid from the beginning, you may be eligible to have your marriage annulled.

Grounds For an Annulment

In Iowa, you can base your annulment on any of the following grounds:

  • incestuous marriage - you and your spouse are related by blood, as first cousins or closer
  • impotence - either spouse was impotent when you were married
  • bigamy - you or your spouse already had a husband or wife living at the time you were married
  • incompetence - you or your spouse was legally incompetent and under the guardianship of someone else at the time of marriage, and
  • under the legal age to marry - you or your spouse were underage at the time of the marriage.

Some of these grounds for annulment have additional conditions. For example, ff one spouse had a previous husband or wife when the parties were married and that previous spouse dies, and the current spouses still live together after the death, the marriage won’t be annulled. Also, if current spouses continue to live together after the previous marriage is dissolved, the current marriage won’t be annulled.

If a spouse was under 18 at the time of the marriage and lied about it to their spouse, the marriage won’t be annulled unless the underage spouse wants to annul the marriage and shows proof of their real age before their eighteenth birthday. If a spouse is 16 or 17, they can still have a valid marriage if their parents consent and a judge approves, in which case it can’t later be annulled. A person who gets married at 16 or 17 after a judge approved their marriage over their parent’s objection is also not eligible to have their marriage annulled.

How Do I Get an Annulment?

In Iowa, you will need to file a “Petition for Annulment” similar to how you would file for divorce. You file your petition for annulment in the district court for the county where either you or your spouse live. Contact the clerk at your county district court to see if they have a sample petition for annulment that you can use. A link showing maps and contact information for all Iowa district courts is listed below.

The spouse filing for annulment is called the “petitioner” in the petition, and the other spouse is the “respondent.”

Either you or your spouse needs to have lived in Iowa for the last year. The petition should state which spouse has lived in Iowa for at least a year, and give the name, birth date, and address for both spouses. It should also give the date of the marriage, and the name and birth date for children, if any. The petition should list the legal grounds from the previous section that make your marriage eligible for annulment. If you need temporary support for yourself or any children, you should also state that in your petition.

You will have a hearing in front of the judge where you will have a chance to explain the reasons your marriage should be annulled. If the judge believes you have proven this, the judge will sign an order granting an annulment of your marriage. The judge can also sign an order granting your annulment if your spouse doesn’t dispute that the marriage should be annulled.

Effect of an Annulment

When the judge grants your annulment, you and your spouse are treated as though the marriage never existed; you can say that you were never legally married to each other.

The judge can also divide any funds and property the spouses have during an annulment. If one spouse lied to the other to make them believe the marriage would be valid, the judge can order the spouse who lied to compensate the innocent spouse.

A marriage may still be annulled even if the spouses had children during the marriage. The court can still decide that the children are legitimate, meaning they can inherit from either parent and both parents have to financially support the children. Generally, the court will order that children from annulled marriages are legitimate unless one of the spouses can prove that the children are not the biological children of both parents.

Resources

For the full text of the law on annulment in Iowa, see the Iowa Code, §598.28 through §598.32.http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=IowaCode&input=598

A map and contact information for all Iowa District Courts is here:  www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/District_Courts/

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