You probably have a lot of questions about Catholic annulments, especially how it will affect your children’s legitimacy.
Listed below are some frequently asked questions about Catholic Church annulments. When we assist you with your individual annulment procedure, we will also answer all the specific questions you have pertaining to your case.
Do annulments render children illegitimate in the Church? ▼
No. When the Church declares a marriage of parents null, many people are often confused about its legal impact upon the legitimacy of the children in church law. The legal term “legitimacy” means that the child’s father is known. He is the “husband” of the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth. Before there was such a thing as DNA testing, this was the only way society could assume who was the father of the child. An annulment does not retroactively affect the child’s paternity. At the time of the child’s birth, the parents were legally presumed to be husband and wife. It is then that the legitimacy of the child was established. Anything stating otherwise is simply wrong!
Does an annulment wipe away the marriage like it never existed? ▼
No. The Church is really declaring in hindsight that, on the wedding day, specific factors prevented the bride and groom from bringing about a legally valid marriage in church law. The ceremony is not wiped away – all the guests saw it happen! The relationship of husband and wife is not wiped away – that remains the relationship between the man and woman while they lived together. The children are not wiped away – they were born in a loving union, are a blessing from our loving God and remain legitimate in church law.
Are divorced people excommunicated or unable to participate in the sacraments? ▼
No. A divorce is a civil law court process that does not impact someone’s status in the eyes of the Church — in short, its only impact is in civil law. Getting a divorce does not mean someone is “excommunicated,” in the Church or unable to receive sacraments. However, since a civil divorce doesn’t impact someone’s status in the Church, it does mean that someone who is divorced but has not gotten a Catholic annulment will not be able to remarry in the Church.
How much does an annulment cost? ▼
It varies. The fees for the annulment investigation are typically set by the diocese. In many places, there is no fee. In others, the fee is a few hundred dollars and only helps defray the actual cost of an individual’s case. However, an annulment isn’t going to be denied if the petitioner cannot afford the fees. Payment arrangements and other options are typically available, as is pro-bono work.
If we had children, can the marriage still be annulled? ▼
Yes. One of the legal grounds for annulment is an openness to children; however, that doesn’t mean that a marriage that produced children is restricted from getting an annulment due to other legal grounds. It is a common misconception that an annulment makes children illegitimate in church law. That is false; it does not! Of course, a Catholic annulment is a separate process from a civil divorce, but the Church will ask if the civil obligations are being fulfilled.
Do annulment requirements change depending on who you are or who you know? ▼
No. The name or status of the petitioner (the spouse requesting the annulment), the respondent (the spouse receiving), or any witness does not matter. Everyone is treated with the same procedural rights in church law. No one is penalized for being well known or for being unknown. Everyone is treated fairly and in accordance with the church law. In fact, no officer of the court is permitted to take part in a case in which there is a family relationship, close friendship, animosity, desire to profit, or avoid a loss. This law exists to protect the integrity of the process and to avoid any suggestion of collusion.
How long does it take to get an annulment? ▼
It varies. There is a common misconception that the annulment process can take several years to complete. Before the advent of the Internet, that might have been the case, but these days, the process is much faster. The length of time it takes will depend on an individual case, but the timeframe is roughly 9–18 months at most. Some annulment petitions can be processed and a decision can be made in a few weeks to a few months — especially if you submit thorough documentation with your petition, which is something Catholic Annulment – Another Chance can help you with.
Can I still get an annulment if my ex-spouse doesn’t agree? ▼
Yes. Your ex-spouse’s participation and agreement are not necessary to the Catholic annulment process. The tribunal will get in touch with the ex-spouse, let them know the marriage is being investigated for an annulment, and give them an opportunity to participate. However, their agreement or lack thereof will not inhibit an annulment from being granted. Including the ex-spouse is primarily to give them the opportunity to review any investigative materials, and to have an equal opportunity to participate in the proceedings.
Can an annulment impact divorce proceedings or vice versa? ▼
Not really. A tribunal will check to see if a couple are civilly divorced, but generally speaking, a divorce does not impact annulment proceedings. Since a divorce is strictly civil law and a Catholic annulment deals with church law, the two realms are separate. Annulment proceedings look for elements that determine whether a marriage was invalid in church law.
Can an annulment decision be appealed? ▼
Yes, but with a caveat. After an annulment decision is made — no matter what the decision is — the petitioner, the respondent, or the Defender of the Bond can formally request an appeal. However, this can only be done in the case that one of those individuals believes that the testimony was not evaluated correctly. If an appeal is requested, it will be the responsibility of the requestor to provide additional witnesses and testimony. The other party will be given that same opportunity.
Does the Church annul the marriages of Protestants and unbaptized individuals? ▼
Yes. The Catholic Church recognizes Protestant, interfaith, and civil marriages as valid in Catholic Church law. Once the Catholic Church recognizes a marriage as a valid in its law, then any question of invalidity must come before a church tribunal. These types of annulment requests normally occur when a divorced non-Catholic wishes to marry a Catholic.
So, for example, when two Lutherans marry in the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church views that as a valid marriage in its own law. Suppose the Lutheran couple divorces, and the divorced man now wishes to marry a Catholic woman. He is not free to do so in the Catholic Church until the Catholic Church annuls his prior marriage. The same illustration also applies to unbaptized individuals. National estimates suggest that close to 20 % of the Catholic Church annulments granted in the United States are of non-Catholic marriages.