Annulment and Marraige in the Catholic Church?

Hey everyone! I’m wondering what reasons you can be denied an annulment and what happens in the case that you are turned down.

My sister’s boyfriend has been officially divorced for a year now. He and his ex were not married in the Catholic Church and neither are Catholic (not sure if that matters). A few months go my sis and her boyfriend talked to our priest about getting an annulment and were told that there were no grounds for annulment. At all. From my point of view, I think he (my sister’s boyfriend) just got tired of trying and gave up on the marriage. For that reason, I can understand why they may not have grounds for an annulment, but are they really expected to not date or not marry at all for the rest of their lives? In all honestly, they were dating before the divorce was final…I didn’t know if infidelity is grounds for an annulment in that case since the person asking for annulment is the person who was cheating? If that makes sense…

Any information would be very appreciated. It’s kinda breaking my heart cause now they are talking about getting married in Vegas, and it disgusts me that they may be joined together by Elvis instead of God. Their thoughts are that if they can’t get married in the church they should at least “be having some fun” when they get married. Even though I don’t agree and have expressed my opinions to her, I know my sister wants more than anything to marry this guy and won’t get rid of him. This will crush my parents who are devout Catholics, especially if she goes about it in this way. More than anything, I don’t want her to alienate herself from her family or this to hurt the relationship she has with my parents.

I feel like I need to help in some way, since she is in her little “love fog” and I know she will regret these things when she finally gets through it. Is there anyway to get an annulment in this situation? If no, is she expected to just walk away? While that is my preference for her, I know that won’t be her choice. :confused:

Were they both baptized Christians (in the trinitarian formula) before they were married? If so, that may provide an impediment to examining the marriage.

In any case, your sister & boyfriend might want to contact someone with the diocese’s marriage tribunal directly. My understanding is that while the pastor’s support is very helpful, it may not be absolutely necessary. I think the tribunal operates as an independent body and can work the proceeding without the pastor.

Remember, there are fees charged for pursuing an annulment, but if unable the pay the diocese may help mitigate the costs. If they are serious about securing an annulment, this would be the way to go.

One other thing, my diocese recently issued a statement that annulment appeals can be expected to take up to 18 months. That alone may sway pursuing this.


Well, an annulment is a finding that a sacramental marriage never occurred in the first place. It’s not about anything that happeneding during the marriage, it’s about the conditions when the marriage first occurred.

So infidelity during the marriage wouldn’t be cause for a finding of nullity, but if one or both of the spouses entered into the marriage intending to be unfaithful that possibly would be.

If the marriage was valid at its foundation, it is permanent…as Jesus says in Mark 10:11, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her.” The Church does expect people who had a valid marriage and divorced to not marry as long as the spouse remains alive. To allow re-marriage in these cases would be to endorse adultery.

A finding of nullity (annulment), on the other hand, is a determination that no valid marriage ever occurred and, thus, those who were in the ‘marriage’ are not bound to one another by the Sacrament and are free to marry others. Rightfully, the Church should be cautious in granting annulments since the presumption is, in almost all cases, that a marriage is valid.

If the Church cannot be reasonably certain that a valid marriage never occurred, then she will not grant a declaration of nullity. The Church will not marry people who are not free to marry, because the Church cannot and will not endorse adultery. So yes, as heartbreaking as it sometimes may be, if there are no grounds for an annulment then that person is still morally bound to their spouse and is not free to marry another.

Not knowing the presumptively married couple, I cannot comment on whether the Priest was correct in his judgement (it’s not my place anyway)…but I would think there would be a way to open a case in the Diocese to review the marriage and determine if there are grounds for an annulment. Others can comment better than I can on how the actual process works, but I hope this helps clear up why the Church holds the position she holds.

Unfortunately, the Church’s age-old teaching that marriage is a permanent institution is increasingly incompatible with the rest of society’s views on the matter :rolleyes:

First of all you appear to be working from a false assumption. You are assuming, in the way you phrase you question, that a person is entitled to an annulment except under certain conditions. This is not the case. The Church always assumes that a marriage is valid unless certain specific criteria are met.

In a nutshell those criteria are that, at the time of the marriage, one or the other party were unable to give full consent, or withheld some vital information, or were coerced in some way, or did not fully understand that marriage is for life, or refused marital relations and intended to do so at the time of the wedding, or refusing to accept children…

I would advise you sister to contact the chancery and ask to speak with someone specifically trained in this aspect of canon Law. This is nothing against her parish priest, but this is an area that is somewhat complicated and it is best to speak with someone who is well versed in the matter. He (or she) can speak with them in smoe detail to see if it might be worth applying.

Until he is granted an annulment the Church has no choice but to consider him to be married and as such your sister should not be dating him. If he cannot get an annulment then she may not marry him.

His infidelity at the end of the marriage would not have a bearing on the annulment one way or another. What the tribunal is interested in is the status of the form and of the consent at the time of the marriage.

I know that this is a bit disjointed but I hope that it helps some…

Edit: To comment on the above poster who mentioned the support of your priest, no it is not necessary. In fact when I purused my annulment I was not a practicing catholic and it was my Godfather who set me up with a deacon at the parish I grew up in - not the parish where I resided. And the parish priest where the case was initiated, so far as I know, never saw it…


The other posters are correct. What happens during the marriage has no bearing on it’s validity (except, perhaps, that certain actions later on may be evidence of the mindset that was present at the beginning). What matters is the circumstances surrounding the exchange of vows (i.e., the wedding).

An annulment (more accurately referred to as a “declaration of nullity”) is a statement from the Church that a valid marriage was never contracted in the first place. This declaration is only made after careful examination of the events surrounding the actual wedding.

That the pastor said there was no grounds does not necessarily mean that the door is closed. As others suggested, the best thing to do would be for him to contact the diocesan Tribunal office and speak with them about it. The pastor does not need to be involved in the process.

as usual with these questions, not enough info. Yes of course it matters whether or not the spouses were Catholic, because if they were, the grounds would be different.
my guess off hand? that is what the boyfriend is telling your sister.
since she as an unrelated party can have no direct knowledge of what the priest did or did not say, she will have to take his word for it, won’t she.

she is dating a married man. period.

Yes, married people are expected not to date other people for the rest of their lives.

In all honestly, they were dating before the divorce was final…

While I know it may be very painful for you and your parents, if your sister was willing to involve herself with a man before his marriage had even *legally *ended, I’m not sure she ultimately cares much about the Church’s declaration. A very sad thing . . .

A person who’s marriage is *valid *would be denied a decree of nullity, since a decree of nullity is a decree that a marriage is invalid.

Correct. Perhaps you should read the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you understand what a decree of nullity is, and isn’t.

Yes, that is correct. The reason being, he is ALREADY married.

Well, your sister wasn’t very smart to get into such a relationship. He is not free to date or marry.

No, adultery is not grounds for a decree of nullity.

Does your sister understand that she would be committing a mortal sin and separating herself from the sacraments. She would no longer be able to receive communion, confession, etc. And, mortal sin is the path to Hell, so this is serious.

Sit her down and explain to her that marrying a divorced person is ADULTERY and a sin against the sixth commandment.

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