Another annulment question

I am a lifelong Catholic and have been married for more than 40 years and my husband (also a cradle Catholic) just walked out 2 1/2 years ago because he said we had a mortally dysfunctional communication pattern (whatever the heck that meant). I have tried mightily to figure out what he wants and to work to reconcile but to no avail. He refuses to go to couseling and has put me through some miserable months and years trying to dance to his tune. We don’t speak, we don’t see each other, we no longer email (until I have served my penance for some imagined infraction) or even write. I filed for divorce last fall but withdrew it this spring in hopes that he would be shocked back to sensibility and agree to work with me. But all I achieved was his insisting that I continue to fulfill the discovery tasks that were part of the divorce (inventories, massive document production etc.). Everyone that knows him thinks he has had a psychic “break” of some kind, some just say he is totally nuts (I’m in the latter group). A former therapist of his (psychiatrist) even told me that he is clinically depressed and refuses to even consider medication.

I still love my husband but he has hurt me so badly during out separation that I don’t think I could ever get past the memories of how he’s treated me and ever feel loving or close to him again. (He left me all alone when a big hurricane hit two years ago; when I lost my job last year he offered nothing by way of support; he has also estranged himself from every other member of the family including our daughter; he continues to foist off more and more expenses on to me so now I have almost nothing left after paying my bills (although I did get a new job four months later); there’s lots more but you get the idea… I firmly believe that he has been systematically trying to “reprogram” or “re-educate” me to some warped version of what his new idea of what a wife should be and until that happens (not ever) he is content to go on like this forever - I’m not.

Anyway, I don’t see much hope for this marriage any longer so I have become curious about the subject of annulments. I have read the reasons that are used by the church to grant annulments and the area called “defect of consent” has me wondering if there were things in him from the beginning that precluded his being able to consent to a lifelong union. He had just returned from Viet Nam four days before we married and had been pinned down in a bunker for several days by the Tet Offensive before he left the country. Another issue is that there aren’t really any witnesses around from the beginning of the marriage who could give testimony about those days so what could I do about that? Anybody out there who knows more about this than I do who might give me some advice?

Thanks so much.

Are you legally divorced? Because my understanding is that the Church cannot even begin to investigate the validity of your marriage unless you are.

Other than that, I can only suggest you talk to a priest or canon lawyer because they will be able to advise you far better than we can.

However, we will be glad to pray for you and your situation!

No, I am not divorced. I filed last fall but withdrew it in April, hoping against hope that the reality of how desperate I was would have hit home with my husband. It didn’t.

Your immediate family surely met him, didn’t they? They can be witnesses. What about members of his family?

Just go ahead with the divorce. If a divorce clears his head, then you could always re-marry. :smiley: (Sarcastic thought here- related to my situation.)

Go ahead with the divorce. Then start the annulment. Even if you don’t get an annulment, women of our age are often happy living single.

You need to get some legal protection from his trying to (as I read it?) make you responsible for his debts. How old is your daughter? Wondering if child support is part of the picture.

I have been in your situation. Get the very best lawyer you can – even better than you can afford, because you can’t afford not to do so. Protect yourself and your daughter.

Worry about the annulment after the dust settles. It is a very healing process, I found, but you need to take care of the financials and the legalities first.

Dear sister bookreader,

I am wondering why you are worrying about annulment at this stage. People normally don’t even think about it until they think they will be marrying someone else.

As others have suggested, don’t worry about the annulment until you have the civil divorce matters taken care of. It’ll give you fewer things to worry about, IMHO.

In case you did not know. The Church does not consider it a sin to separate or be civilly divorced from one’s spouse, especially for a valid reason. In other words, you can be separated or civilly divorced from your husband without a decree of nullity (annulment) from the Church. Though it is an oxymoron (for the most part) to be a “remarried” Catholic, you can live a perfectly normal life in the Church as a “divorced” Catholic.


I am wondering why you are worrying about annulment at this stage. People normally don’t even think about it until they think they will be marrying someone else.

That is not necessarily true. The annulment process is therapeutic, and if one is granted, it is reassuring that the individual did the right thing by getting a divorce. Besides that, who wants to wait two years for the annulment to go through, once you have found “Mr. Right”?

Doesn’t this mentality only lend credence to the non-Catholic canard that annulment is nothing more than Catholic divorce?


I hear you, but I don’t think that’s true. I have a good friend who went through with an annulment and had no “prospect” waiting in the wings. It gave her peace and later helped her to know whether she was even free to consider a relationship with a man. That sounds totally understandable to me.

If it were me, even if I never got married again, I think I’d want to know whether I had really broken off with someone I was sacramentally married to or not.

Dear brother Rick,

Yes. Your explanation makes sense. Even though you two probably meant the same thing, something about LongJourney’s explanation didn’t seem right.


Let me first assure everyone of two things. First of all, there are no minor children involved (my daughter is 40 years old) and secondly, there is no one “waiting in the wings” for me to get out of this marriage. I am asking about annulment because I am so freaked about the entire concept of a divorce after such a long marriage and it seems so alien to me as a lifelong Catholic. I guess I’m just trying to look ahead at my life after “him” and it would just feel better to be “annuled” rather than “divorced.”

Additionally, to those of you who have urged me to find first-rate legal counsel, I already have. When I first filed last fall I had engaged someone who was recommended by my therapist but I replaced him when it became clear that his only agenda was trying to pound my husband into the ground and get me “free” as soon as possible. He went against my wishes and filed citing cruelty when I explicitly told him it was to be no-fault. Then he was so un-communicative and would not even listen to me when I tried to tell him that I wanted to explore every possibility for reconciliation. Now I have a superb attorney and she was very supportive of me when I told her that I wanted to give my marriage every possible chance and she had no problem with my withdrawing my petition in hopes that my husband would make some reasonable concessions. It hasn’t worked out that way but she has assured me that although there is not technically an attorney-client relationship at this time that all I have to do is pick up the phone and we would be “back in business.”

I haven’t given up but it doesn’t look very hopeful at this point. But as I have said, I am only exploring the theoretical aspects of annulment as a way to make myself feel a little better about this grave situation that I am facing.

Thanks to all who have responded.

It is my understanding that one must be divorced or at least legally separated for at least one year before applying for an annulment. Maybe I am wrong. I do agree with the healing part of it because I have ‘walked’ thru annulments with 2 different friends. God Bless Memaw

My wife walked out 8 months ago after 21 years of marriage, we have 3 kids, 2 of them minors (12,14). She moved in with a former fiancee from over 23 years ago. Our divorce was final last month.

(she gave 50% custody two weeks, then I had both kids except every other weekend, that changed to my having the daughter full time, son is with her every other weekend)

I can understand wanting the anullment out of concern for her soul. She is committing adultery. I can’t help but think it would be more charitable for me to pursue the anullment even if she doesn’t. I don’t have anyone waiting in the wings.

But I struggle with this because, I suspect that she is having mental/emotional issues which have driven her actions. Not simply trouble dealing with life, but physical brain chemistry. The reasons she gave for leaving- loss of feelings for me- aren’t consistent at all with how she’s dealt with the kids. She was diagnosed with depression fairly recently, but it may have existed to some extent since we got married.

My dilemma is that I’m willing to work things out with her if she comes to the realization that there is more going on with her than she’s admitted, gets treatment and wants to come back. (Just like I wouldn’t leave her if she came down with cancer). I vowed for better or worse, sickness & health etc. I can’t see asking for an anullment (or the Church granting one) if this condition arose after getting married.

On the other hand, is it selfish not to pursue it if it existed prior to our marriage in the interests of her soul, even though I would be willing to work things out.

I’m not sure about the one year part. But do remember hearing something about needing to be divorced first. I think that part at least is correct.


The Church does not accept nullity cases if the parties are not civilly divorced.

The trouble with cases involving marriages of extensive length (such as yours) is that it can be very difficult to assemble testimony from that far back (ie, witnesses may no longer be living, can’t remember details from that long ago, etc.).

Investigating a marriage is an exercise in seeking the truth - if you were not validly married, you would want to know that. If you were, you’d like to know that as well.

Message me privately if you need further guidance. I work with nullity cases all the time.

God bless,

Deacon Chris

This site has good list of the canons pertaining to marriage annulment. It does help to understand these even if you are not seeking an annulment because it describes what makes proper consent.

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