THE ANNULMENT PROCESS AND ITS EFFECTS
An annulment is an official declaration by the Catholic Church’s external forum, the tribunal
that a particular marriage de facto and de jure was lacking, from the very beginning, some
essential element for a valid, permanent, sacramental union. The Catholic Church respects and
presumes the validity of all marriages:
“Marriage enjoys the favor of the law; consequently, when a doubt exists, the validity
of a marriage is to be upheld until the contrary is proven”. Canon 1060
This is true also of those marriages of non-Catholic and non-Christian people where the
celebration of the marriage took place in other churches, temples, mosques, etc., as well as
those purely civil ceremonies of marriage, such as that before a justice of the peace, judge or
other civil magistrate.
A declaration of nullity is granted only when it can be shown, through the facts of a particular
marital history and the substantiating testimony of witnesses, that some juridical defect
rendered a particular marriage not valid, despite all outward appearances, despite even the
good faith of the partners and despite the procreation of children subsequent to the wedding.
(It should be noted here that an annulment in no way affects the legitimacy of children born
of such a marriage. In fact, Canon 1137 specifically states that any children born of a
marriage later declared null are legitimate.
Since marriage occurs by consent, freely given and with full knowledge (Canon 1057), the
question often placed before a tribunal concerns this notion of consent under one of these
headings (or in some cases, under all three):
1. Did both partners clearly understand the nature of marriage as a “community of life”
and what such marriage would require of them?
2. Did both partners freely accept marriage as a life-long commitment?
3. Did both partners have the personal capacity to carry out that to which they
consented, i.e., to form a community of life with the chosen partner?
Let us take a cl