How do I get an Annulment in the Catholic Church?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 May 2020
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To obtain an annulment in the Catholic Church, one must be able to demonstrate that some factor existed prior to a marriage that prevented the marriage from being valid. It is very important to note that annulments are concerned specifically with factors that existed before the wedding, not with events that occur after the wedding. Unfaithfulness during marriage, for instance, would not provide grounds for an annulment in the Catholic church, while deception in order to get married, such as hiding significant financial problems from a spouse-to-be, would. If a preexisting impediment can be found and the annulment occurs, it does not dissolve the marriage as a legal divorce does. An annulment in the Catholic Church is actually a statement that the marriage was invalid—in essence, it states that the marriage never took place in the first place.

The process of obtaining an annulment in the Catholic Church tends to be a highly involved one that often takes more than a year to complete. It begins with an application in which the person seeking the annulment is able to explain the marriage and the reasons for it to be considered invalid. The application is often quite detailed and tends to include many questions about an individual's entire life from childhood. It also includes many questions about the relationship before, during, and after the marriage. Before the annulment process proceeds beyond this point, the spouse of the applicant is notified that the process of annulment has begun and is given an opportunity to actively participate in the process; participation and agreement of the spouse, though, are not required.

Several relevant documents, such as baptism papers, legal marriage and divorce papers, and church marriage papers are generally requested with the application. Once the application is submitted, the individual or couple seeking an annulment in the Catholic Church must seek witnesses who can provide insight about the relationship of the couple before, during, and after the marriage. These witnesses are called on to provide whatever information they can, through a meeting or through a questionnaire, about the marriage in question.

After the application process is complete, the information obtained is submitted to a tribunal for review. The tribunal, essentially a church court, may contact the witnesses or the married couple in order to determine if an annulment in the Catholic Church is appropriate or necessary. This process can take more than a year. After a decision is reached, both interested parties will be contacted with the decision. If the annulment is not granted, neither individual can get remarried in the Catholic Church.

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Post 3

@Vincenzo -- why, yes there is some research. Georgetown University last year released some figures showing that Catholic couples in the United States have a divorce rate of 28 percent, considerably lower than 40 percent for people with no religious affiliation and 39 percent among protestants.

So, draw your own conclusions.

Post 2

@Terrificli -- still, you will find people who are fine with the lengthy annulment process. The point seems to be that marriage is taken a lot more casually than it used to be, so there is at least one institution out there that takes it seriously.

The argument seems to be that Catholics, realizing the complexity of the annulment process, think long and hard about getting married. In theory, then, those marriages should last longer. The question is does it work out that way? What is the divorce rate among Catholics as compared to that of the general population?

Any research on this?

Post 1

The lengthy annulment process in the Catholic church has been criticized over the years. Those criticisms have increased over the past 50 years as divorces have become much more common than they used to be.

Still, it is important to remember that the Catholic church is not a government institution. It cannot prevent someone from getting a divorce down at the local courthouse, but it can refuse to recognize a subsequent marriage. That puts some people in a tough situation -- they are loyal to their denomination, but they are worried about how a divorce will be viewed.

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