What is an annulment?
An annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.
A valid Catholic marriage results from five elements:
- the spouses are free to marry;
- they freely exchange their consent;
- in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children;
- they intend the good of each other; and
- their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.
An annulment is not just a “Catholic divorce.” An annulment does not deny a relationship existed. An annulment does not assign blame. An annulment does not have any effect on the civil divorce or custody issues. An annulment does not change the legitimacy of any children born from that marriage. An annulment simply states that what was thought to be a marriage was lacking some quality or characteristic required by the Church for that marriage to have been a sacrament.
Because the Church recognizes all natural marriages and any children that may have been a product of those marriages, anyone who has been previously married and remarried or is married to someone who has been previously married must receive a declaration of nullity from the Church, even if you were not married in a Church. An annulment is necessary to receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) or the Sacraments of Vocation (Marriage and Holy Orders), and can take many months to complete.
Where do I begin?
The way to begin the annulment process is to contact your local parish and speak with a priest or an annulment companion in your area. If you are unsure of whom to contact, call Sister Ann Kuhn, SSJ, Moderator of Tribunal, at (904) 800-2393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The annulment companion or priest will seek to understand the situation of your marriage and help you to determine if this is the correct procedure for your situation of if a different procedure is required. Once they have determined that this is the correct procedure the annulment companion will tell you what documents will need to be gathered and how. They will also provide you with a questionnaire to answer.
Once you have gathered the required documents and completed the questionnaire, the annulment companion will review everything with you and help you compose the formal petition which will be submitted to the Tribunal and ask you to sign it. Everything is then to be submitted to the Tribunal.
Please be aware that the annulment process has not begun until the Tribunal has jurisdiction to accept your case and formally does so. The many months you spent preparing your petition is prior to the start of the case. Every case is different and the Tribunal is unable to provide any timelines regarding the length of these proceedings. Given that the length and outcome of a case is not predetermined no date may be set for a future marriage until these proceedings are closed.
For more information
For more information about what an annulment is, click here.
For more information about the annulment process, click here.
For more information about the myths of obtaining an annulment, click here.
For more information about Pope Francis’ modifications to the annulment process, click here.
For more information about the grounds on which an annulment could be filed, click here.