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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Catholic Annulment


Term Definition Catholic Annulment - an ecclesiastical judgment within the Catholic church that a marriage is null.
Application in Divorce In the eyes of the Catholic Church, marriage is an inviolate sacrament, so religious Catholics sometimes seek an ecclesiastical annulment because the Church does not permit divorce. Therefore, Catholics who wish to end marriages may go before an ecclesiastical tribunal that declares that the marriage is null.

This is long process by which a court reviews the marriage and declares it null. It can take up to a year for an ecclesiastical court to make a ruling. After receiving a declaration of nullity, the party who receives one may marry in the Church. Generally, if a marriage was never legally consummated, for instance when spouse was already married, the union is said to be void, or a nullity; that is, it never existed. By this route, in the eyes of the Church at least, the marriage is null.

"A declaration of nullity is not a dissolution of a marriage; it is not a Church divorce," writes Michael Smith Foster, the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Boston and the author of Annulment The Wedding that Was. "Rather, it a judicial finding that a marriage had not been brought about on the wedding day, as the faith community had presumed."

The children of annulled marriage are legitimate, and their parents have the obligation of support.

Religious annulments and divorces must also be accompanied by civil annulments and divorces. A religious annulment often follows actions in civil court.

See Annulment; Civil Annulment; Religious Annulment; Religious Divorce.

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