(Note: This webpage is intended to educate the reader regarding the basic teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject of Marriage Annulments. For more information than what is contained herein, please contact your local Diocese.) Q. 1. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, what is a marriage? A. 1. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the word "marriage" can only be applied when the union was created as God intended it to be, such a marriage having the minimum content that God gave it. If that minimum content is not present, then the union between the two spouses can be called whatever people want to call it, but in the eyes of the Catholic Church, it was never a marriage. Based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, the bride and groom must consent to three essential obligations of marriage, these being permanence, exclusivity and openness to children. Several Catholic writers have added that there is a fourth essential obligation, that being an "interpersonal relationship." "Permanence" means having the condition or quality of being permanent. "Exclusivity" means that it is a unity that is not divided, nor shared by others. "Openness" means possessing a truthful character, being readily accessible, not concealing one's actions or purposes, not being secretive. "Interpersonal relationship" means being mature, lacking any psychological disorders that would make a spouse incapable of making a valid marriage promise. Q. 2. Why are Marriage Annulments granted? A. 2. Marriage Annulments are granted when, from its beginning, the union between the bride and the groom lacked one of the essential elements that are mentioned above. Q. 3. What is an Annulment? A. 3. Under church law, an annulment is a ruling that a true marriage never existed. An Annulment is usually granted for the reason that one or both parties did not have

5. 4. 5. 4. who had been validly married. Q. What are the reasons needed to obtain an Annulments? A. are bound to "canonical form. A marriage being declared null is not the same as a divorce. provides three main reasons as to why a true and valid marriage did not exist in a previous union. Nor for a person to marry a deceased spouse's parent or . Therefore. There was a lack or defect of what is called "canonical form.the psychological ability or maturity to understand the commitment that they were making by getting married. a bride and a groom." b. according to the Canon Law. Dispensations are not granted for a brother to marry his sister. This applies in both." Canonical form means that the parties were married in the presence of a properly delegated priest or deacon and two witnesses. Q. An impediment exist when the circumstances of a person or a couple does not permit them to enter into certain marriages. The minimum age can vary from country to country and/or state to state within a country. What does it mean that a marriage is declared null? A. An example is when a person is below the minimum legal age. A divorce states that two people. Canon Law and Civil Law. following the rites of the Catholic Church. if a Catholic decides to get married before a Justice of the Peace or before a Protestant Ministry without first obtaining permission (called a dispensation) from the Bishop of the Diocese. are no longer married. Another example is the marriage of very close relatives by blood or by marriage where a dispensation has not been obtained. A declaration of nullity means that something that was necessary and indispensable for a valid marriage has not come into existence in the relationship. or who have been received into the Catholic Church after their baptism in another Christian denomination." All persons who have been baptized in the Catholic Church. that being 14 years old for a female and 16 years old for a male. then that marriage is not valid according to the Catholic Church because of its "lack of form. and who have not left the Catholic Church by a formal act. Those reasons are: a. There was an impediment to the marriage. The Catholic Church.

Note that.”  Previous marriage . The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has not enacted a higher prohibitive minimum age for marriage. In Gambia. Liberia. and Sierre Leone. if it be made by one who cannot pay the marital debt. If the man is under 16 years of age. .e. List of diriment impediments to marriage  Age. 16 years old for both parties). absolute. and so cannot be dispensed. the impotence must be perpetual (i. the bond is unfitting if a person bind himself to what he cannot give or do. One of the parties has received sacred orders. this minimum age has been set to 18 years old for the man and 16 years old for the woman. One of the parties has made a public perpetual vow of chastity. permanent (unless dispensed by the Apostolic See). this minimum has been set to 21 years old for the bridegroom. in another church. Divine. note that in a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic.e. then their marriage is invalid.. sterility neither forbids nor invalidates a marriage. All previous attempts at marriage by both parties wishing to marry must be declared null prior to a wedding in the Catholic Church. so the marriage contract is unfitting. must be physically capable of completed vaginal intercourse. without regard to the religion of the party previously married. Ecclesiastical. and 18 years old for the bride. the age limitation applies to the non-Catholic party as well. this minimum age has been set to be in accordance with civil law. 1075 §2) In Canada. This is an ecclesiastical impediment. In England and Wales. The reason behind this impediment is explained in the Summa Theologica: “In marriage there is a contract whereby one is bound to pay the other the marital debt: wherefore just as in other contracts.  Physical capacity for consummation lacking. this minimum age has been set to be in accordance with civil law (i. Ecclesiastical. relative. temporary. or the woman is under 14 years of age. individual bishops do not have this authority (cf. permanent (unless dispensed by the Apostolic See).  Sacred orders .child. There are about a dozen impediments listed in the Canon Law. this minimum age has been set to 18 years old for both parties. in general. Per Canon 1084 §3 "Without prejudice to the provisions of Canon 1098. incurable) and antecedent to the marriage. and so does not apply to a marriage between two non-Catholics.. unless this impediment is dispensed by the local ordinary. A marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person is invalid. absolute. To invalidate a marriage. CIC c. wherein the man ejaculates "true semen" into the woman's vagina.  Perpetual vow of chastity ]. However. or by the State. This impediment is generally considered to derive from divine natural law. In Nigeria. however. and also in New Zealand. and also in Switzerland.  Disparity of cult . the episcopal conference has delegated the authority to set a higher prohibitive minimum age to the individual bishops." Both parties. absolute. The impotence can either be absolute or relative. Previous marriages. whether conducted in the Catholic Church. Ecclesiastical. In the Philippines. In South Africa.Each national episcopal conference has the authority to set a higher minimum age as a prohibitive impediment.

One of the parties. Ecclesiastical.  Adoption The parties are related by adoption. The parties are related by marriage in a prohibited degree. (This should not be understood to mean that the Catholic Church permits abortions. Abduction. One or both of the parties has brought about the death of a spouse with the view of entering marriage with each other. permanent. is incapable of the logical thought necessary to enter into marriage. this reason being the most widely used. has been abducted with the view of contracting marriage. permanent. relative. The parties are closely related by blood. permanent (unless dispensed by the Apostolic See). Marriage is not a sudden decision for the present.) The consent of both parties must be an informed consent.[citation needed] temporary. usually the woman. Such examples are: One of the parties did not have sufficient use of reason to be able to consent to marry. permanent. One of the parties is the godparent of the other. Relative. Ecclesiastical or divine.  Affinity ]. permanent. he believing that marriage is the right thing to do under the circumstances. relative. relative. Ecclesiastical. There was a defect in the consent exchanged between the partners. relative. The marriage vows must be free of pressure. Nor can a boy feel obligated to marry a girl because she is pregnant and refused to have an abortion. one that can be discarded and forgotten tomorrow.  Consanguinity ]. This no longer applies in the Latin Rite. A person. Ecclesiastical. but still applies in the Eastern Catholic Churches. c. A person cannot marry because one or more parents have arranged the marriage.  Spiritual relationship. Ecclesiastical.  Crimen ]. The parties are "related" by notorious concubinage. Ecclesiastical. such as in epileptic seizures. they must freely accept and clearly understand the lifelong commitment that they are making. There must be present an . When the bride and the groom make their vows. depending on the degree of relationship.  Public propriety .

Such are grounds for an Annulment. It also asserts that conditions such as homosexuality and alcoholism often undermine the capacity for a permanent union..amount of assessment and weighing of the obligations. The Church recognizes instances of psychoses such as schizophrenia or manic depression.. adultery is not grounds for annulment. A party setting a condition prior to the marriage that he/she does not want to have children invalidates a marriage. the close and intimate personal relationship of mutual support and affection. But this was ignored because one party believe that he/she could "change" the other person during the marriage. The consent of a party is questionable when the person was escaping from an unhappy home life that was marred by abuse. A man's consent is questionable when he was recently widowed. has a demanding job and is concerned with the upbringing of his children. Marriage resulting from love at first sight. While adultery may indicate an underlying immaturity stemming from the time of the wedding. this was evident before both parties were married. cannabis or other forms of abuse and violence is hardly compatible with the Church's definition of marriage as a community of life and love. is still grieving. especially when the person has never dated anyone else. fights. . Frequently. There is the situation when one is psychologically unable to meet one essential criterion of marriage. quarrels. can be viewed as one or both parties not having the necessary faculty to enter into a marriage agreement. A party setting a condition prior to the marriage of reserving the option of divorce if things do not work out invalidates a marriage. A party setting a condition prior to the marriage of reserving the right to have a sexual relationship with a person or persons other than one's spouse also invalidates a marriage. alcoholism. The abuse of alcohol. etc. it is important to note that in and of itself. Some psychological problems justify the annulment of a marriage. responsibilities and expectations of marriage before one consents.

The Petitioner is also asked to provide names of witnesses such as family member. 7. their dating and the marriage. In January. (Example: A mama's boy. After a brief discussion. relatives and/or friends who have personal knowledge of the Petitioner. the names of the children cannot be . They are: a. 6. 2007. That person is usually called a "Field Advocate" of the Tribunal. each case is different and there are numerous grounds that can nullify a marriage. 6. This involves the first interview by the Advocate with the person applying for an Annulment. The concealling of infertility or impotence are grounds to invalidate a marriage. This interview provides basic information about the meaning of an Annulment and its process. is another reason to invalidate a marriage. invalidates a marriage. What is the procedure to obtain an Annulment? A. the Respondent and their marriage. Hiding a previous marriage invalidates a marriage. In most cases. Four steps are involved in the annulment process. During this meeting. Q. invalidates a marriage. Q. What steps are involved in an Annulment? A.Participating in a marriage for the purpose of gaining resident status in a country. such as finding it disgusting. without intent of permanently living together in a marital union. The first step is for the person who is applying for an Annulment (the Petitioner) to approach their parish priest. An aversion to sex. 7. the Vatican ruled that the overbearing influence of a mother or father. The Preliminary Investigation and Formal Testimony of the Petitioner. the Petitioner is given a Form called the "Preliminary Investigation Form" that needs to be completed at home.) As can be appreciated. religious or lay person in the Diocese who is responsible for processing Annulments. meaning the psychological autonomy needed for marriage was lacking. This Form asks basic questions about the family background of both parties. the priest will refer the Petition to the priest.

This testimony could be in writing or verbally. Once the Form is completed. b. documentation and evaluation have been gathered. Under certain circumstances. While the testimony of the witnesses is usually sent by mail. The Advocate will then forward all this material to the Tribunal. During the second meeting. The Formal Investigation of the case. the Civil Marriage Licence and the Civil Divorce. Sometimes during the formal investigation. The Tribunal will then contact the Petitioner's witnesses by mail.used as witnesses because they were not born when the parents were married. documentation may be sought to help clarify the grounds for an annulment. the annulment still proceeds because the Respondent cannot prevent the case from being heard. Once all testimony. It is at this time that the Petitioner and the Respondent are given . Even if the Respondent refuses to cooperate. the Advocate will conduct a session called the "Petitioner's Formal Testimony. Once the formal testimony is completed. the Petitioner will be asked to sign three documents. Within a short period of time. they may request to give it verbally. In such cases the Petitioner will be asked to attend a meeting of the Tribunal. the priestjudge closes the case. and iii) a signed oath indicating that what the Petitioner has written in the Preliminary Form and spoken in the Formal Testimony are the truth. At this time. The Respondent (the other party in the marriage) will be provided with the right to give Formal Testimony regarding the marriage. the priest-judge may feel that he needs to talk to the Petitioner in person. they having already given their consent to being witnesses. the priest-judge assigned to the case will contact the Respondent. These answers are given under oath and they are taped. the Petitioner returns it to the Advocate along with a copy of both. such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist for an evaluation. ii) a mandate appointing the Advocate for his/her case. the Tribunal may appoint an expert." The Petitioner will be asked to expand on his/her answers found in the Preliminary Investigation Form. They are: i) a petition asking the Tribunal to officially start the annulment case.

without the involvement of an appeal. the priest-judge makes his determination as to the validity or invalidity of the marriage. and whose's duty it is to defend the marriage-bond in the procedure prescribed for the hearing of matrimonial causes which involve the validity or nullity of a marriage already contracted. He/she then presents the reasons why the annulment should be granted. not every case goes to Rome. etc. How long does it take to process an Annulment? A. d.the right to review the "Acts of the case" (meaning the testimony). who usually has a degree in Canon Law... Q. The Decision Phase. Contrary to what some believe. but in the case where more serious problems arise (such as alcohol abuse. If the Tribunal issues an affirmative sentence (meaning being in favor of nullity). He then issues his formal sentence or decision. After this period the case proceeds to the Decision Phase. c. The Appeal/Ratification Process. In his sentence. His responsibility is to protect the rights of the parties involved and the sacredness and indissolubility of the marriage. The complete process of an Annulment. The tribunal Advocate studies all the testimony in the case. domestic abuse. The presiding cleric working with the Petitioner or the Respondent consults the Tribunal concerning the restrictions. restrictions may be placed on one or both parties. Should a person start planning their next marriage during the process of an Annulment? . The "Defender of the Bond" (This is an official. Once the legal briefs of the Advocate and the Defender of the Bond have been presented. Premarriage preparation is one restriction. 9. 9.) will take the position that the marriage is valid and sacramental until the opposite is proven. can easily take two years. This review is mandated by Canon Law. the presiding judge of the Tribunal will notify the parties of the final decision. the matter is referred to the Tribunal of the Archdiocese for a review. Q.) professional counselling may be ordered prior to any remarriage in the Church. 10. Once this review (appeal/ratification process) is completed. infidelity.

11. 10.A. First of all. if the Petitioner does not receive a favorable answer. the Catholic Church will insist on a solemn written promise in this regard from both parties to the new marriage. Because of the lack of an Annulment. Secondly. When an Annulment is not granted. their relationship (new marriage) shall be viewed as an adulterous affair. What if an Annulment is not granted? Then what? A. The Catholic Church does not permit a person to remarry in the Church without an annulment and the fulfillment of "the natural obligations (children) of a previous union" [Catechism: # 1629. When children are involved in the separation of the parent. There are two reasons for this. 11. the Tribunal insist that all obligations of the civil divorce be followed and one should not approach the Tribunal seeking justice from the Church when one is not being just with his/her civil obligations to the family (such as paying child support as outlined by the civil court). 3]. If there is doubt concerning the future. When a Petitioner disagrees with the decision of the Tribunal. Q. iii) If the parties. 13. he/she will not be able to remarry in the Catholic Church. do not remarry and live a celibate life (not being . Q. Canon Law: Code 1071. the length of the Annulment process is unknown until it is completed. 12. the Appellate Tribunal in Rome. ii) Should they remarry outside the Catholic Church without an Annulment. although Divorced. #1. Is there an Appeal process over and above the Appeal that has already been mentioned above? A. 12. Q. he/she can appeal to the Appellate Tribunal of the Archdiocese or to the Roman Rota. the following shall apply to both parties: i) Both parties cannot remarry in the Catholic Church. 13. they will no longer be able to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Do spouses have certain obligations that are mandatory before they can apply for an Annulment? A. The Petitioner is asked not to plan a date for his/her future marriage in the Catholic Church until such time as the Annulment process is completed.

they qualify to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. .sexually involved with someone else).

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