The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is for life. In fact, we believe that marriage is a covenantal union between a couple and God that cannot be ended by anyone — not even by God because we know that He does not go back on his covenantal agreements. So, when a relationship is so strained that you start looking into divorce and annulment, that understanding of Catholic marriage rules can be very weighty. One question we hear with regularity is whether an annulment can be contested. The answer to this is not as straightforward as it is with civil divorce proceedings. Here’s why:
Understanding Annulment and Catholic Marriage Rules
In order to understand why you may not necessarily be able to contest an annulment, you first need to understand how an annulment works. The basics are these: according to Catholic marriage rules, a covenantal marriage cannot be ended by anything. And yet, an annulment decree essentially brings about an end to a marriage in a way that is recognized by the Church’s teachings. What happens during the annulment process is not a straightforward legal process of dividing assets, the way a civil divorce is. Instead, it’s an investigation to see whether all of the necessary elements for a covenantal marriage were present when vows were said. If the annulment investigation finds that even one of those necessary elements was missing, the union is not a covenantal one, and without that covenantal agreement, the marriage is nullified. Basically, without all of the necessary elements present, the Church views that marriage as never having existed.
So, Can Catholic Annulments Be Contested?
The annulment process is very much an investigation, and because of this, it’s very different from civil divorce proceedings. During most civil divorces, there is an opportunity for one of the spouses to disagree, whether it’s contesting how their lives are being divvied up, or protesting the divorce as a whole. During an annulment investigation, on the other hand, both spouses will have the chance to speak up and discuss their experiences, but there is not necessarily a distinct opportunity to contest the annulment process.
Contesting an annulment generally comes down to disagreeing that there are grounds for the nullity of marriage to be issued, and explaining those reasons to the tribunal. However, an annulment investigation doesn’t necessarily require the participation and agreement of both spouses to proceed. You can have an annulment granted even without a word from your spouse. But, if your spouse is seeking an annulment and you want to contest it, your interview responses during the investigation are your chance to do so.
Once a declaration of nullity has been issued, there is no good way to contest it. You can appeal the decision if you believe that some information was missing or not resented fully during the investigation, but that will raise questions about why that information was not presented to begin with.
If you have questions about the annulment process, contesting an annulment, or Catholic marriage rules in general, our knowledgeable team is here to help. Connect with Catholic Annulment - Another Chance to learn more about the annulment process and get compassionate guidance through the process.