1. What is a Declaration of Nullity (annulment)?

Frequently Asked Questions

1.      What is a Declaration of Nullity (annulment)?

A declaration of nullity states that, according to Church law, a given marriage was not valid (and therefore not binding) at the time a couple spoke their marriage vows. A person asks this office to look at a previous marriage which has ended in divorce, and, if possible, to issue a declaration that this previous marriage no longer binds either party to the union. In no way should this process be thought of as a type of "Catholic Divorce." A declaration of nullity states that a marriage was invalid from the beginning. A civil divorce, on the other hand, asserts that a marriage, valid or not, is dissolved. The Catholic Church does not grant divorces.

Neither is an annulment a statement that a marriage never existed civilly. Rather, it is a determination that certain conditions were present at the time the marriage was entered that made it an invalid union according to Catholic Church teaching. The civil effects and recognition of that marriage remain intact and unchanged.

Moreover, an annulment is not a statement that the marriage was entered into in bad faith by either of the parties. It is not a statement of who caused the marriage to fail or who was most guilty for its failure. Those are certainly important questions for a person to ask. But they are not the questions a Tribunal must answer.

The annulment process, in its most simple form, involves any person coming to the Church and asking to be heard. Information is gathered by us and in the end, we answer that person's request: the marriage was invalid or valid according to the laws of the Church.

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