There are many ways to end a marriage. You can get divorced, file for separation, or have the marriage annulled. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.
None of these options are, however, equal in their outcomes. For instance, both a divorce and an annulment end a marriage, but a separation keeps the marriage legal and official.
This fact raises a question: If you want to end your marriage, could you have it annulled rather than get divorced? The answer to this question depends on the circumstances within the marriage.
What Is Annulment?
Before diving into whether or not you can have an annulment, it’s important to know exactly what having an annulment means.
When you get divorced, you are ending a marriage. Legally, the marriage is on your record. There will always be a period that shows you were married from Time A to Time B. It happened, and then it ended.
When you have an annulment, you are invalidating a marriage. Essentially, an annulment says that there was something legally wrong with the marriage, and it should never have happened. Within yourself, you will always know that there was a time that you were married, but the law will assume the marriage never took place.
Requirements for Annulment
Because an annulment essentially wipes the marriage from your record, it requires much higher standards. You can’t simply get an annulment because you are no longer in love. There must be a legal justification for erasing this union.
These standards vary slightly from state to state, but most states share the same general qualifications for an annulment.
In Iowa, you can annul your marriage when:
The Marriage is Somehow Illegal
This standard is a catch-all for many possibilities. It may also apply to fraud, where one spouse married under a false identity. It may even include breaking certain citizenship requirements, nullifying the union.
If either party is incapable of sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage, and this impotence is discovered later, it could be grounds for an annulment. The lack of knowledge and the timing are important. If someone willingly married an impotent partner, it may be difficult to obtain an annulment. Similarly, if someone loses their sexual function later, that may not be sufficient grounds to invalidate the union.
Either Spouse Was Already Married
In this regard, the spouse in question must have another living, legal spouse. This is not the same as discovering that they have a secret family elsewhere. That would be grounds for a standard divorce, not for legally erasing your marriage.
Either Spouse Was Underage
If either spouse was underage at the time of the wedding, it can be nullified. This applies only to the date of the marriage, not to when the couple met and begin their romantic entanglement.
Either Spouse Was Incapacitated
At the time of the marriage, one or both spouses may be incapable of rationally agreeing to that marriage. Perhaps one partner was comatose, but the other completed the legal paperwork. Maybe one spouse is mentally deficient and legally incapable of consenting to a marriage. Mental illness could also be grounds for an annulment. If either party was experiencing a mental health episode at the wedding and recovered later, they can file to have the marriage annulled, claiming that they were incapable of consenting.
If you believe your marriage is invalid, and you want to discuss an annulment, contact our office for a free consultation. We may be able to find grounds for such an annulment. If not, we can help you file for a standard divorce. Our number is (515) 200-7571, and you can contact us online.