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Iowa Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Though it seems simple, the legal proceedings surrounding marriage actually have strict rules, with each state having its own set of annulment and prohibited marriage laws that prohibit marriages under certain circumstances. A prohibited marriage is void because the marriage was never lawful. Generally, there's no need to get an annulment or divorce in these cases. Commonly prohibited marriages typically include bigamous marriages, where a person tries to marry more than one spouse, or incestuous marriages, where a person tries to marry a relative.

An annulment, on the other hand, is a way to void a marriage that would be otherwise invalid. While both an annulment and a divorce end a marriage, an annulment wipes the slate clean as if there was no marriage to begin with. However, you usually need to get an annulment within a certain time limit, so it is important to act promptly if you are considering an annulment.

This article provides a brief overview of annulment and prohibited marriages in the state of Iowa.

Annulment and Prohibited Marriages Laws in Iowa

The chart below lists the details of Iowa's annulment and prohibited marriage statutes.

Grounds for Annulment

Marriage in Iowa may be annulled under I.C.A. § 598.29 if:

  • The marriage between the parties is prohibited by law
  • Either party was impotent at the time of marriage
  • Either party had a spouse living at the time of the marriage, provided they have not, with the knowledge of this fact, lived and cohabited together after the death or marriage dissolution of the former spouse of the party
  • Either party was a ward under guardianship and was found by the court to lack the capacity to contract a valid marriage

Legitimacy of Children

Children born to the parties, or to the wife, in a marriage relationship that may be terminated or annulled shall be legitimate to both parties unless the court shall decree otherwise according to the proof. (I.C.A. § 598.31)

Prohibited Marriages

  • Underage marriages: Marriages are invalid if involving a minor under the age of 18 without consent from parents or legal guardians of the party under the age of consent (minors age 16 and 17 may marry with the written consent of the parents or guardians). (I.C.A. § 595.2)
  • Incestuous marriages: Marriages between the following persons who are related by blood are void: between a man and his father's sister, mother's sister, daughter, sister, son's daughter, daughter's daughter, brother's daughter, or sister's daughter; between a woman and her father's brother, mother's brother, son, brother, son's son, daughter's son, brother's son, or sister's son; or between first cousins. (I.C.A. § 595.15(1))
  • Bigamous marriages: Marriage between persons either of whom has a spouse living is void, but if the parties live and cohabit together after the death or divorce of the former spouse, such marriage shall be valid (I.C.A. § 595.15(2))
Out-of-State Marriages A marriage solemnized in another state, territory, country, or any foreign jurisdiction which is valid in that jurisdiction is valid in the state of Iowa if the parties meet the requirements for validity and if the marriage would not otherwise be declared void. (I.C.A. § 595.20)

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(so) you are researching.

Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa

Although Iowa's marriage statute says, "Only marriage between a male and a female is valid," the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in Varnum v. Brien (2009). At the time, Iowa was just the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Since then the U.S. Supreme Court, in the landmark 2015 case Obergefell v. Hodges, ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. FindLaw's Same-Sex Marriage section has more information and updates on the latest same-sex marriage developments.

Iowa Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws: Related Resources

State statutes regarding the marriage process can be complicated, whether you're wondering if you can get married, or if you're wondering if your existing marriage was legal to begin with. You can find additional articles and resources in FindLaw's sections on AnnulmentDivorce, and Iowa Family Law.

Next Steps: Speak to a Family Law Attorney

If you are considering annulling your marriage or have questions regarding its legitimacy, you should speak to a local divorce attorney. An experienced attorney can view the specific facts of your case and give you legal advice using the relevant laws of your jurisdiction.

Get started by speaking to a local family law attorney today.

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