The Catholic Church understands marriage to be an enduring and exclusive partnership of a man and a woman for the giving and receiving of love and the procreation and education of children. For those who have been baptized, a valid marriage is also the sacrament of matrimony. To be a valid marriage, a couple must give free consent and have the capacity to live out what was promised in the words of consent in a life-long commitment. Although not every marriage is a sacrament (Catholic, Jewish, non-believer) every marriage is presumed to be a valid marriage.
It is a declaration of nullity or a judgment by proper church authority, that a particular marriage was never a true valid marriage according to Catholic Church definition. Despite outward appearances and even good faith of the partners, or many years of being together and having children, an annulment may be possible. A declaration of nullity is granted when and only when it can be shown that some essential element was missing or some defect of consent was present to cause the marraige to be invalid from the beginning.
- Divorced Catholics considering another marriage in the Catholic Church
- Catholics wishing a clarification of Catholic Church status after a divorce
-Divorced non-Catholics wishing to marry a Catholic or wishing to join the Catholic Church
It is important to note, however, that an annulment is not required when a former spouse is deceased. It is also advised that you check with your parish priest or the Tribunal Office to determine if a formal annulment is needed, as there are other processes which might apply in a particular situation.
The status of a divorced Catholic is that the marriage is still binding until an annulment is granted. A divorced Catholic is allowed to continue to receive the sacraments and participate in the full life of the Church, as long as another marriage is not attempted without an annulment. Divorced Catholics who attempt another marriage without an annulment are not excommunicated from the Church, but are not to receive the sacraments until an annulment is granted and the marriage is validated in the Catholic Church.
There are no civil effects to a church annulment in the United States. An annulment is strictly a church matter. The church does not deny the fact that there was a civil marriage which carried with it legal responsibilities and implications under civil law. The legitimacy of children born of this marriage, the decree of civil courts regarding alimony or child support are affected in no way by the granting of an annulment.
Both parties of the marriage in question are free of the marriage bond when an annulment is granted. Both are free to marry again unless there are other circumstances present or special requirements needed.
The fee requested of the petitioner is $250.00. No one is deprived of services because of an inability to pay the fee. The petitioner is free to discuss his or her financial situation confidentially and payments can be arranged.
After all of the facts of the case are gathered, the case is reviewed and a decision is made by the Ecclesiastical Judge appointed to the case. The Defender of the Bond and Procurator/Advocate assist by giving a written opinion of the case prior to the decision.
While there are no guarantees an annulment will be granted, the usual length of time is eight months to a year. Every case differs and thus, the length of time varies for each individual case. The Tribunal cannot guarantee when a formal case will be finished. The best advise is to plan ahead.