WHAT IS AN ANNULMENT?
The term annulment refers to an official statement by the appropriate Tribunal of the Catholic Church that what appeared to be a marriage was, in fact, not a true marriage. Annulment, or declaration of nullity as it is called in Church law, does not deny that a real relationship existed, nor does it imply that the relationship was entered into with ill will or moral fault. It means that the relationship fell short of at least one of the essential elements for a binding union. Unlike a civil divorce which breaks a marriage bond, an annulment is a Church declaration that the union was invalid from the moment the couple exchanged consent.
ARE THERE ANY CIVIL EFFECTS TO A CHURCH ANNULMENT? WHAT ABOUT THE LEGITIMACY OF CHILDREN?
Children born of a marriage which might later be declared null are always considered by both canon and civil law to be legitimate. There are absolutely no civil effects from a Church annulment in the United States. Therefore, the annulment does not affect in any manner the custody of children, property rights, inheritance rights or names. These issues are under the jurisdiction of the civil courts. The purpose of the annulment procedure is to serve one’s conscience and, where necessary, to reconcile persons so that they may fully participate in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
HOW DOES SOMEONE BEGIN THE PROCESS?
A packet with additional instructions and the forms to be completed are available in every parish in the Diocese. However, if for some particular reason this would be especially difficult for you, please contact the Judicial Vicar at the Tribunal to make other arrangements. Of course, any questions concerning the annulment process can be directed to anyone on the Tribunal.