Annulment questions

I got married when I was 23 yrs old back in 2010. After living apart for 95% of my marriage (due to educational obligations), I made the determination to file for divorce as I did not see a future with my now ex-husband.

He is now seeking an annulment through the Church in order to most likely marry his new girlfriend (good for him!) and I have run into a few questions I was hoping I could get some help with. For some background, I was never baptized into any faith and I’m unsure as to if he was baptized as a child and our marriage was a civil courthouse marriage.

  1. If he initiates the process of annulment, do I have to do anything other than wait for paperwork and respond appropriately?

  2. My ex was under the influence of marijuana when we were married. How does this effect the case? Do I have to prove this?

Thanks for the help!


It would make a good case for inability to give consent.

Simply answer the questions truthfully.

If he’s able to initiate an annulment, he must have what they consider valid reasons for it to proceed forward.

If one’s a Catholic and doesn’t marry another Catholic, I think that, alone, is grounds enough for annulment, isn’t it? I thought it was classified as “lack of form”.

Further, I’m not an expert, but I thought a marriage could be annuled if it was to an unbaptized person.

I don’t see why the marijuana question would even need to come up. It also probably would require proof of some kind, but why would that route to annulment even be necessary with all these other reasons?

If a Catholic marries outside the Church without a dispensation, the Church considers that marriage invalid due to lack of proper form. Catholics can validly marry non-Catholics or non-Christians with a dispensation. The Original Poster said nothing about either of them being Catholic at the time.

Hi InquiringMinds,

My husband went through this process a couple of years back and although it was lengthy, it’s not meant to be similar to a “court of law” - most of the work is done through paperwork. To describe the process (as it worked for us - keep in mind it may be slightly different where you are) and answer your specific questions:

Initially, your ex-husband needs to file initial paperwork. You will want to make sure that he has a current address for you, because the tribunal will contact you via snail mail. The initial paperwork deals with questions regarding the wedding, any problems that came up while you were dating, when the problems began in the marriage, the nature and cause of the problems, whether he is dating with a view to marriage (he will have to give his fiancee’s details as she may be contacted, depending on the situation), your attitudes towards having children in the marriage, etc. He will have to submit a divorce certificate, a certified copy of the registration of marriage (because you were never married in the Church, they have no record of the wedding) and either baptismal certificates or affidavits of non-baptism for both of you. (You might want to make sure he can contact you - as DH and his ex were both baptized, neither needed an affidavit, but you will.) There is also a piece that his priest/pastoral assistant has to fill out.

After the initial documents are submitted, both he and you will receive a letter from the tribunal. He will be required to come and give testimony, usually to his local priest or to a member of the tribunal staff. You will be advised that he is seeking a declaration of nullity, and offered the opportunity to testify if you wish. You have the right to decide whether or not you wish to be involved, and advise the tribunal accordingly. (DH’s ex chose not to testify; this did not impede the process in any way.)

Your ex will have to name 3 witnesses who knew you at the time of your marriage, and they will also have to testify.

After everything is submitted, the tribunal staff takes over. A defender of the bond (effectively, a defense lawyer for the marriage) looks over the evidence to see if there is any reason why the marriage should be considered valid. The tribunal staff may also ask for additional information, such as police reports, marriage counselling records, medical reports, etc., depending on the circumstances of the marriage breakdown.

After all evidence has been received, a decree is issued from the judges that gives you time to review the evidence. Both you and your ex have the right to go to the tribunal and ask to see any and all evidence that has been presented. (This is true whether or not you decide to testify.) It is not a requirement for you to view the evidence, but it is your option if you wish.

If no new evidence is presented at this time, the process moves ahead to the final stage - making a decision. If the tribunal finds the marriage invalid (this is called an affirmative decision) it is automatically appealed. The decision of the second tribunal is final and binding - if an affirmative decision is reached, both of you are free to marry. If a negative decision is reached (i.e. the marriage was valid) or if you’re not happy with any decision the tribunal makes, you have the right to appeal the case yourself to the Roman Rota. Regardless of the decision made, you will get a final letter from the tribunal with the outcome of the case. The process normally takes about 1.5 - 2 years, but there is no “set deadline”.

There are numerous reasons that a marriage is not valid. Lack of valid consent (such as being forced to marry because you were pregnant or for another reason, or having a defect, such as a mental condition or being on substances that affects your ability to consent), intending not to be open to the possibility of children, permanent, untreatable inability to have intercourse, marrying someone too closely related to you, not understanding the nature of marriage, intending not to be married for life, etc. The book “Annulment: The Wedding that Was” may be helpful in answering other questions.

Forgot to add a couple of things: a declaration of nullity is NOT a Catholic divorce; it is a statement that in the eyes of God a true marriage covenant never existed. This is not to say that you did not have a relationship, or that a civil contract did not exist, but rather that there was something fundamentally missing that meant the marriage was not valid. (All marriages are assumed to be valid until proven otherwise; marriages between baptized people or people who are baptized after marriage are sacramental marriages, while marriages in which one or both parties were not baptized are natural marriages and still presumed valid.) In a very small number of circumstances, in which one or both parties were not baptized, the bishop or the Pope may dissolve the marriage; these are called the Pauline Privilege and the Petrine Privilege, or Favour of the Faith. However, if both parties are baptized, or were baptized after the marriage, it is a sacramental marriage and cannot be dissolved.

A declaration of nullity also does not have any effects in civil law or on the legitimacy of children. If at least one party entered in good faith (this is called a putative marriage) the children are still legitimate.

This issue deals with the ability to give valid consent. It my Church, it is made very clear if one is under the influence of alcohol/drugs at the time of marriage, the priest will not allow the couple to get married.

  1. No. In fact, you don’t even have to respond at all if you do not want to. The Church will send you some paperwork and ask for a response within 30 days. If you do not respond, they will try one more time. If you still do not respond the case proceeds without you.

If you want to respond you have the option of fully participating and answering the questionnaire sent to you or of officially opting out by checking the box that says you do not wish to participate and sending the forms back to the tribunal.

  1. The use of marijuana may be grounds for nullity because it could effect consent to marriage. Neither you or your ex-husband have to prove he was high when he married you. He can state that he was high when he does his paperwork and you could choose to corroborate his testimony when you do yours, but it’s not like a court where hard proof must be presented.

I don’t know what happened in your marriage or how it has effected you personally, but I would encourage you to participate in the annulment process.

I am currently seeking annulment of a civil marriage entered into in 1994 and that ended in 1999. I remarried in 2002. Considering how much time has passed and how different my life is now, I thought I understood the past and had long since moved on. Through the questions in the annulment paperwork, I realized I was still carrying around some baggage. The annulment process helped me gain insight and understanding that I never would have had otherwise.

BTW, I would recommend participating in the annulment process, given the information you noted. The fact that he was high at the time of consent is absolutely essential information to the case.

In a nutshell, I fell out of love with the man I married - who was not really a substantial provider to the relationship. He refused to take on responsibility except for when it suited him and had a very serious marijuana habit that he would not get rid of despite my advisement that it was detrimental to our relationship. (sorry for the vent here)

I still have some residual anger toward the situation becuase of how well he treats his new girlfriend compared to how I was treated (it is like night and day). However, as time goes by the anger becomes less and I do not let this affect me in the long term and I try to have no contact with him. They are not engaged to be married as of yet, but he would not have gone through this process unless she asked - and that is completely okay!!

He mentioned starting the process in June and I have been keeping heavy eye on my mailbox for notification from the Church BUT he just submitted paperwork last week. So, I watch longer. I have full intention of participating and giving the tribunal my response, which would be completely in favor of having the marriage annuled. I may have some anger, but I would never let that keep him or myself from being happy after the fact. It took me some time but I fully acknowledge that having the marriage annuled by the Church does not mean it did not take place!! It just has a different connotations on a higher level which, I realize now, will bring me release and allow me to fully let go and find forgiveness without forgetting.

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