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Annulment Myths

You’ve probably heard a lot of conflicting things about annulments: what’s true and what isn’t…

10 Common Myths About Catholic Annulments:

Myth #1: A divorced person automatically receives excommunication.

False. Divorce is a function of the civil law and secular courts. It’s a myth that a divorced Catholic is “excommunicated,” and not able to receive the sacraments within the Church. This is because the Church still considers you married–even if you are no longer living with your spouse.

Myth #2: You have to be wealthy to afford a Catholic marriage annulment.

Some people are afraid the process costs thousands of dollars. Not true. In fact no one is ever turned away from applying for an annulment because of his or her inability to pay a fee.

Myth #3: The Church makes money from Catholic marriage annulments.

There are court costs associated with the processing of an annulment. The cost is not a donation to the Church; rather, it is a fee for services rendered. The moneys support the operation of the tribunal, i.e., salaries, office supplies and building expenses. Some United States dioceses do not charge any fees. In these places the diocese fully subsidizes its tribunal.

Myth #4: Your children will become illegitimate.

Many parents are often confused about the legitimacy of their children in church law should an annulment be granted. This should not be a concern. At the time of the child’s birth, the parents were legally presumed to be husband and wife. So at the moment of the child’s birth legitimacy was established. An annulment DOES NOT retroactively affect a child’s legitimacy. They remain legitimate in church law.

Myth #5: Your ex-spouse has to agree to it.

It’s a myth that both spouses have to agree to a Catholic annulment. Tribunal judges can grant an annulment even if the ex-spouse is against the idea of an annulment.

Myth #6: Annulments are only for the rich and famous.

No. Everyone is treated equally in church law. A person is not given preferential treatment for being rich/famous or penalized for lacking wealth/fame. In fact, church law prohibits any court official from taking part in a case in which there is a family relationship, close friendship, animosity, desire to profit, or avoid loss.

Myth#7: There will be judges, witnesses, and cross-examinations.

Yes, but not anything like Court TV. The Tribunal is a church court, which is very different from a civil courtroom. Depending on the type of case, you may have tribunal advocates who assist you and there will be 1 to 3 judges involved in your case. But most of the work is usually done by you and your witnesses in writing. You do not have to appear in a courtroom. You do not have to be together with your ex-spouse. There is never an emotional courtroom scene like in the television dramas.

Myth#8: If I have children, I can’t get a Catholic annulment right?

Any divorced person has the right to request an annulment. The length of the marriage or the presence of children does not prohibit a nullity of marriage request. If a church annulment is granted, it has ZERO effect on the legitimacy of your children in church law. Don’t believe anything claiming otherwise – as it simply is not true.

Myth #9: Only unmarried priests decide whether or not you can get an annulment.

No. In the United States, tribunal judges are men and women of all demographics. US tribunals are comprised of judges who are husbands, religious sisters, priests, wives, single men, religious brothers, single women, and deacons.

Myth#10: The Church doesn’t care what I’ve endured.

The Church cares a great deal for persons who have suffered the pain of divorce. As such, tribunal personnel should treat petitioners, respondents, and witnesses with great care and sensitivity. Though the annulment process is primarily a legal one, efforts are made by many tribunals to extend emotional and spiritual comfort to the parties as needed. The tribunal also cares about the well being of your children, especially in regard to the present welfare of minor children.