How do Marriage Annulments Work?

Hossein Berenji, Aug 28, 2017

The word “Annulment” refers to Catholic declaration of something as having no legal existence. It is also called ‘declaration of nullity.’ There is no definite process to declare a marriage as null. The decision of declaring a marriage as null requires a church tribunal, also known as Catholic Church Court, to declare that a marriage previously acknowledged as lawful is no longer valid as it falls short of one or two of the elements that are essential for any binding union according to church law. The elements that are required for a catholic marriage to be lawful include:

  • The will of spouses to get married.
  • They are adult enough to give their consent for the marriage.
  • They exchange their consent independently.
  • They should have the intention to hold on to the marriage for a lifetime, to remain faithful to each other and be open to children.
  • The couple should have good will for each other.
  • The consent of the couple is given in front of at least two witnesses and a church minister.

Any exceptions to the last requirement must be permitted by authority of the Church.

Why it is lawfully required for a divorced Catholic to attain a declaration of nullity before getting married in Church?

According to the teachings of Jesus, it is believed by the church that the bond of marriage is meant for a lifetime. The only condition that should be met to get out of this bond is the death of either of the two partners. Therefore, the declaration of nullity is made essential by the church before getting married. A marriage annulment ensures that an essential element of the binding union was absent when the wedding took place. If this condition is met, the church holds the authority to declare that a lawful marriage never took place at the day of the wedding.

How does a marriage annulment process works?

There are several steps that should be followed. A written testimony should be submitted by the person who wants the marriage to nullify (also known as the petitioner). The testimony should include details of the marriage and the list of people aware of the marriage. The witnesses of the marriage should willingly answer questions about the marriage and spouses. If the petition is not signed by the other spouse, also known as the respondent, the church tribunal should contact him or her. In case the respondent does not want to be involved, the petition still moves forward.

The process that is to be followed will be determined by the information that is submitted by the petitioner. The petitioner, as well as the respondent, holds the right to read the submitted testimony excluding what is concealed by the civil law. Both parties hold the right to select a representative to represent them before the Church tribunal. One representative of the Church fights to demonstrate the validity of the marriage (also known as defender of the bonds).

If the final verdict favors the nullity of marriage, both parties are allowed to marry to another in Catholic Church. The right to file an appeal is also there in case one of the two parties is not happy with the verdict. You may want to get in touch with a family law attorney to understand how marriage annulments work.