For some people, getting an annulment may be an alternative to divorce. A civil annulment is considered legal, but a church annulment needs the legal process in order to be recognized by the government.
A Void Marriage
Annulment is the process of having a marriage declared void from the very beginning. They are usually granted for the following reasons:
- Blood relationship between partners that should have prohibited marriage.
- Diminished mental capacity, whether through illness or through toxins (drug or alcohol abuse).
- A spouse was not legally able to marry, due to all ready being married or being underage in the state where the marriage was performed.
- One or both spouses were threatened in order to commit to the marriage.
- Fraud (undisclosed or concealment of important information) was being committed by one or both spouses when agreeing to the marriage.
Depending on the state, these basic standards can vary. Some states may have time limits for filing. Contact a lawyer in your area to find out the specific legalities involved.
Annulment in the Catholic Church
An annulment is a finding by the Catholic Church that a marriage was not entered into with the right intentions. According to the Catholic Church, there are two things that must be upheld at the time the vows take place:
- The intent to be faithful throughout marriage.
- A willingness and physical ability to procreate.
In other circumstances, extreme immaturity or mental illness/psychological condition can be taken into consideration when making a decision on whether or not a marriage is valid.
Either the will of the man or woman entering into the marriage can nullify it. However, if later on someone chooses infidelity or decides to take contraceptives, it does not invalidate the marriage, and the marriage is not eligible to be annulled.
Annulment simply deals with only the intent on the day the vows were exchanged. It does not "end" a marriage-it signifies that one never existed in the first place. This is a fundamental difference from divorce, which recognizes a marriage took place, and then ends it.
Those wishing to have a marriage annulled should speak with their priest in order to find out the process. Frequently, it involves going before a group called the Tribunal, with witnesses and proof that the marriage was not valid from the start.
Having your marriage annulled within the church is not legally valid. Therefore, a couple needs to seek a divorce or have their marriage annulled through the civil courts as well. Church proceedings can be done before or after the civil process.
Knowing your legal rights can be imperative when seeking to have your marriage annulled. For those wishing to be granted a church annulment, knowing church doctrine can also be helpful. Here are some informational resources:
- LegalMatch.com provides links to family law by state.
- Lawyers.com can help find a lawyer in different areas of the country.
- 100 Answers to Your Questions on Annulment by Edward N. Peters is a guide for both Catholics and non-Catholics to the process.