The Catholic annulment process has the reputation of being considered “Catholic divorce.” While that comparison isn’t accurate, the idea of annulment as Catholic divorce stems from the fact that many couples choose to go through an annulment investigation while also going through the civil divorce process. But annulments are not meant to take the place of a civil divorce, and neither are you required to get an annulment if you have gotten a divorce. So when do you need an annulment?
Why Get a Catholic Annulment?
The first misconception to correct is that you need an annulment. You don’t; an annulment isn’t required — though, there are several circumstances in which you would want one, so it can feel like a necessary step. But here’s the thing: the annulment process isn’t there to end a union, it’s meant for the salvation of souls; it’s less about your union with another person, and more about your relationship with God. Which means that the Catholic annulment process is there for a number of different situations. Some reasons a person will seek an annulment include:
Wanting to Remarry
Even if you have already obtained a civil divorce, you will need to go through the annulment process before remarrying in the Church. This is because marriage is viewed as a covenant between God and the couple and cannot be ended. Even after obtaining a civil divorce, you are considered married in the eyes of the Church until a nullity of marriage (a Catholic annulment) is granted. So if you wish to remarry, you will first need to seek an annulment. This also extends to divorced non-Catholics who wish to marry someone in the Church.
Seeking Healing After a Marriage Ends
There’s no denying that divorce is an incredibly tough, emotionally fraught process. Every layer of life is changing in some way, and that can include things like losing friends as well as feelings of failure. Going through the Catholic annulment process can be a great way to heal from all of that emotional pain. We call it an annulment investigation since you and your Church tribunal will be looking deeply at the circumstances of the relationship. It can be highly emotional, but it’s also a good way to help your mind, heart, and soul heal.
Witnesses Are Getting Older
The Catholic annulment process relies on first-person testimony about the state of your relationship, but it also calls for testimony from witnesses who knew the relationship before and at the time of the marriage. Even if you have no intention of remarrying at present, many will go through the annulment process because important witnesses are getting older and could pass away before a future annulment investigation.