Divorce and Annulment in Iowa: What’s the Difference?


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Various legal terms are often confusing to people without specialized training, which can lead to misunderstandings. For example, if a person is considering a divorce in Iowa, they may hear about annulment and think it may sound better.

It is therefore important to understand the differences between these terms as they have very different meanings. Since the state of Iowa can grant both divorce and annulment, this article may be helpful for people who are not entirely sure about the legal details that distinguish these proceedings.

Basic differences

Let’s start with the divorce. This process involves ending a marriage through the legal dissolution and formal termination of a fully valid marriage. Ultimately, divorce ends a marriage and the two partners are declared single.

Cancellation is quite another. This legal process involves declaring the marriage null and void, meaning it is considered never to have existed in the first place. In the event of annulment, the marriage is fundamentally erased as illegitimate. As you can see, the two terms have radically different meanings. This is why it is important to know more about each one if you are looking for a marriage dissolution.


Iowa is known as the “no-fault” state, which means that a partner does not have to provide solid reasons why the marriage has failed – it is enough to declare that it is irretrievably broken. Divorce is the most common type of legal separation and falls into two categories: contested and unchallenged.

A contested divorce is the rough scenario often portrayed in the media. When the partners cannot come to an agreement on their own, the court steps in to take matters into their own hands. This is where lawyers for both sides present their facts for the court to decide what divorce terms can be considered fair.

An uncontested divorce is a much less stressful option. It applies when both spouses can settle their differences without involving the court. Often times, such cases are handled by couples without a lawyer if they can resolve issues such as child custody, property division and spousal support.

They can even do the divorce papers themselves to avoid additional costs. In case of DIY divorce, online divorce document preparation services come in handy. The online platform automatically prepares the divorce petition documents for a small fee on the basis of a simple questionnaire.


This procedure is quite interesting and radically different from divorce. Since couples seeking annulment are basically asking for the marriage to be erased from existence, the requirements are specific.

The State of Iowa recognizes several reasons that can be given to validate the cancellation process:

  • Incestuous relationship – you and your partner are related by blood;
  • Either spouse was powerless;
  • Either spouse was a minor;
  • You or your spouse was legally incapable and under someone’s guardianship;
  • Bigamy – you or your spouse was married to someone else at the time.

As can be seen, these conditions are quite different from those presented in the divorce process. Still, there are a few more details to consider.

In Iowa, if a spouse was married to another person at the time of the marriage and the other person dies, it does not qualify for an annulment. In addition, an annulment cannot be granted if the partners live together after the dissolution of their previous marriages. As for the minor spouse who lied to his partner before the marriage, the annulment is only possible if the said minor proves his real age before his 18 years.

Further thoughts on the two procedures

Obviously, divorce and annulment are very different in the state of Iowa. The first procedure can be complicated or easy to do without a lawyer. Couples can even start their divorce over the Internet making it fast and inexpensive.

As for the cancellation, the situation is very different. Achieving a null and void marriage is a step often taken by partners who have come together under truly non-traditional circumstances. This is why annulment of marriage is a fairly rare procedure that requires a lot of preparation and court hearings.

Last word

If you are looking to end a marriage but don’t know what to do, this article is a great place to start your research. Iowa has clear distinctions between divorce and annulment, so take that into account when making a decision. If you are confused about your particular case, it may be best to seek legal advice. However, online divorce is also very effective for divorce and annulment if the partners can handle their disputes over property rights and child custody without a lawyer.


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