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Marriage, Annulment & the Church



For religious reasons, some couples whose marriages have failed will seek to have their marriage annulled rather than filing for divorce. In the eyes of the church, a marriage annulment means that the marriage itself has been declared invalid, and it's as if the marriage never existed.

According to Wikipedia.org:

"In the Catholic Church, a marriage is considered to be a valid contract entered into between a man and a woman, and ratified by Divine sanction. In simplest terms, it is necessary that it be marriage that is contracted, that it actually be contracted (i.e., a valid ceremony/contract be performed), and that both parties enter willingly into the contract. If any of these conditions lack, then the marriage is not contracted, Divine sanction is not obtained, and there is in actual (and religious) fact no marriage. An annulment is a finding later that there was no actual marriage contracted in God's eyes, and therefore no marriage in reality (from the religious point of view), regardless of civil ordinance or appearance to humans."

Obtaining a Civil Law Annulment

States will require one of several conditions to be met in order annul a marriage. Most states will grant an annulment if:

  • You and your spouse are blood relatives, such as parent and child, brother and sister or aunt and nephew. A close relationship by marriage or adoption may also qualify.
  • Either spouse was impotent and you were unable to consummate the marriage
  • Either spouse was still legally married to another person when your marriage occurred
  • Either spouse was not legally old enough to be married
  • Either spouse was forced into the marriage
  • Either spouse was not mentally competent when entering into the marriage contract. Mental incompetence may be permanent, such as someone who is developmentally disabled, or temporary, such as someone who is drunk.
  • The marriage was fraudulent because either spouse failed to disclose details such as a criminal history, the presence of sexually transmitted diseases or impotence

If you seek to have your marriage legally annulled, you'll have to file a petition for annulment in the local family court explaining why your marriage should be invalidated. You'll also have to show that you and your spouse have drawn up a plan for support, child custody and division of community property, if necessary. If a judge approves your plan, your marriage will be annulled.

Church-Granted Annulment of Your Marriage

An annulment in the Catholic Church is a procedure, separate from a state-granted annulment, where a panel of Church judges determine whether a marriage should be invalidated. According to the Church, marriage annulment should be granted if either spouse was unable to enter into a contract for marriage. In an annulment of marriage, the Catholic Church considers many of the same factors as the state, in addition to some factors unique to the Church:

  • Are you and your spouse related by blood or adoption?
  • Was either spouse psychologically unable to consent to the marriage?
  • When entering the marriage, did either spouse have no intention of staying married for life or having children?
  • Was there deception, when entering into the marriage, on the part of either spouse?
  • Was either spouse forced into the marriage?
  • Was either spouse underage when the marriage occurred?
  • Was either spouse unbaptized?
  • Did either spouse kill his or her spouse in a former marriage with the intention of entering into the current marriage?

After-Effects of an Annulment

It's important to understand that if your marriage is annulled, this doesn't mean that your marriage didn't occur and your children are illegitimate. Instead, an annulment acknowledges that a marriage did occur, but was not legally binding. Any children born to you and your spouse are still legitimate in the eyes of the law.