Catholic Annulment - About Catholic Church Marriage Annulment and its Process

Catholic annulment is what some refer to as "Catholic divorce". However the marriage annulment of Catholic Church is different from the popular marriage divorce.

The difference between Divorce and Catholic marriage annulment

Divorce is the dissolving of an existing marriage. A legal process that both marriage parties have to consent to by signing the divorce papers to end their union so that they are no longer husband and wife.

However a divorce doesn't deny that there was a marriage. That is why after a divorce when the couples have to introduce each other to new acquaintances they use the term ex-husband or ex-wife. Divorce is a matter of civic law.

Whereas an annulment is a Church law set up and presided over by the church to determine whether or not a valid marriage existed in the first place between two people. And when it's proven that a valid marriage didn't exist, and the marriage is nullified, a Catholic annulment therefore denies that a marriage existed at all between two once married people.

And when a couple divorce they don't do so necessarily because they want to remarry. But an annulment is often requested when a divorced Catholic wants to remarry and have the new marriage recognized by the Catholic Church; although an annulment can be requested by a Catholic whether or not he or she wants to remarry.

And before I move on, you must know that there is no dissolving of a Catholic marriage not even after an annulment does the Church see a Catholic marriage as dissolved. The annulment simply makes clear that there was no valid marriage.

Why there's no Dissolution of Marriage in the Catholic Church

When there's a Catholic wedding, the Church sees the marriage as binding on the couple for the rest of their lives; because to the Catholic, a marriage is a contract or covenant that cannot be broken; so when you're in you're in for life. The only ground where Catholic recognizes a marriage to be dissolved is when a marriage mate dies. That breaks the covenant.

Is the Catholic Church Marriage Practice Biblical?

There are many bible scriptures that emphasized the seriousness of marriage especially Matthew 19:6.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.

The Catholic Church takes these bible portions to mean that God takes marriage so seriously that it should never be broken; no matter what.

"Till death do us part" is where their marriage indissolubility especially comes from.

Yes, God takes marriage very seriously. However, there are several bible scriptures where God made clear the only ground for dissolving a marriage and the grounds for having another marriage recognized by God.

The only ground for dissolving a marriage is when a mate commits adultery.

Matthew 5:32

However, I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on the account of fornication, makes her a subject for adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Take note of the word EXCEPT. Read more about Christians and divorce.

And the grounds for remarriage is after being divorced from a mate that committed adultery or when a marriage mate dies.

Romans 7:2-4

For instance, a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law of her husband. So then, while her husband is living, she would be styled an adulteress if she became another man's. But if her husband dies, she is free from his law, so that she is not an adulteress if she becomes another man's.

Therefore the Catholic teaching about marriage especially not allowing divorce on any ground goes against God's guidelines for marriage.

Does the Catholic Church allow for Separation?

Yes they do when it's very necessary that the couple stay apart like in the event of a serious spousal abuse. However the couple remain married even while separated and therefore must continue to act and present themselves as one and not free to remarry. And the Beginning Catholic explains why.

When we marry we promise to stay together through thick & thin, and to remain faithful. This is important not just because of that promise but also because we've promised to be a sign to the world of God's fidelity to us. Our marriage is a visible sign of the love between Christ and his Church. You know... where he remains faithful to us, even when we fail.

But marriage is more than just a sign - marriage is also the sacramental channel through which God gives the grace of fidelity and love to a broken world. Remaining faithful, even in a difficult or broken marriage, keeps that channel open.

The Catholic Annulment Process

How the Church handle annulment varies from parish to parish. However the general rule remains the same across the Catholic Church.

If you're a divorced Catholic and wishes to make your change in status recognized in the Church and make yourself free for a remarriage in the Church, then go talk to your parish priest. He'll give you the step by step process for a Catholic annulment in your parish. However here are some of the things to expect.

Expect the annulment process to be a bit complicated, be ready to be patient and have some money handy to spend. I hear for other countries a Catholic annulment cost at least $500.

When you petition for an annulment the Church will examine your marriage in detail and try to determine if some essential element for a valid marriage was missing from the beginning. And when it's established that there was, the Church will issue a declaration of nullity and you both become free to remarry again in the Church.

When I wrote about Catholic wedding traditions I included some of the impediment to a Catholic marriage; they are 12 impediments in total. Now when you can prove that at least one of these impediments applied to your marriage, then you're likely to get your first marriage nullified.

For example, was one of you not old enough to have the maturity required for a marriage to work? Or where you forced into marrying your spouse perhaps because of an unplanned pregnancy? And now you realized that was a wrong move because no love exists between the two of you or you're just not compatible? Or you have a mate who has been continuously unfaithful even before the marriage that you married because he or she promised to change and didn't even after being married? Or your spouse has a poor character that though you noticed before but misread to be something else? Perhaps a spouse who is aggressive and/or alcoholic but you confused these behave before to be just wedding anxiety?

In situations like these and more, a Catholic marriage may be nullified on the ground that the person was influenced into making the decision to be married therefore not of free will so the contract is not binding.

Before petitioning for a Catholic annulment, you should be sure that you can prove that there was something essential to having a valid marriage that was missing from your relationship from the beginning. And have at least 2 witnesses who were aware of your marriage situation ready to testify for you.

Do I have to involve my Partner in the Annulment process?

Yes. The Church expects to hear both sides of the story. So when you petition for an annulment the Church will send a written letter to your ex wife or husband. And it's now left to him or her to decide whether or not to participate in the process. The cooperation from the ex will be helpful however your annulment can still be successful if your ex refuses to be part of it. Contacting your ex is simply the Church giving him or her the opportunity to tell their own story about the situation of the marriage.

You submit at least two witness names and they will be contacted to fill out a brief questionnaire about your marriage. Whether or not your ex-spouse participate in the process you'll still need witnesses to back up your story.

In a Catholic annulment it's important that the Church decide what your intentions were for your marriage compared with what happened after the marriage.

If you've been married before, you have to go through the Catholic annulment process before you can remarry in a Catholic church and this is whether or not you're a Catholic. Without the annulment you cannot have a valid second Catholic marriage.

Are the Children from a Nullified Marriage still Legitimate?

Yes they are. As long as the required process for legalizing a marriage was followed when the couple got married, the children from the marriage remain legitimate. Whether the marriage is now nullified is immaterial.

Bible quotations are from the New World translation of the Holy Scriptures.

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