Anullment and status of children


I have a friend who hasn’t been to church in years due to her divorce and remarriage. She believes that the first marriage must be annulled and this would make her son not illegitimate.
What is this status of children?


They are the children of a married couple. Always have been always will be. It just so happens that if the marriage was annulled, then it was a non-sacramental marriage.

That doesn’t mean that it never happened.



not true
the annulment investigation looks into the validity of the marriage by looking at the circumstances that pertained at the time (not after). whether or not the marriage is sacramental is bye the bye, the question under investigation is, was it valid. The status of the children is not affected either way, and a decree of nullity has nothing whatever to do with the children. “legitimate” is a civil law concept, and is not relevant here. anyone interested in the topic should cruise the liturgy and sacraments forum, where this thread belongs, under annulment and look for good links and discussion, esp to a book called Annullment the Marriage that Never Was.


Great response Annie!!!


An annullment has no effect on her children. Illegitimaticy is a result of an illegal or non-existant legal marriage. An annulment simply states that no Marriage recognized by the Church, therefore by God, ever took place.


Yes true.

What does it mean for the marriage to be “valid”?

The whole point of the annulment process it to determine wheter or not an impediment to making a sacrmental commitment existed for one of the spouses at the time the marriage ceremony was preformed.

Wheter the marriage was sacramental or not is certainly not “bye the bye”? The sacramentality of the marriage is precisely the point.

If it was sacramental, then the mark it left on the spouses cannot be taken away. If it was not sacramental then the marriage is not (sacramentally) valid and can (but not necessarily should) be annulled.

For example, two people who are otherwise fully capable of making a marriage commitment who had not received the sacrament of baptism prior to their wedding can not have made sacramentally valid wedding vows.

Once this couple is baptized they should renew their vows in a sacrementally valid form.

When validly contracted between two bapized persons, the Church recognizes the marriage as a sacrament.

“Valid Marriage” = “Was a Sacrament”
“Invalid Marriage” = “Was not a Sacrament”



Isn’t this statement too restrictive? Two unbaptized person can be validly married, even though it would not have been sacramental. Right? In other words, a marriage need not be sacramental in order to be valid.


The church can rule that a marriage is valid even if it’s not done in or by the church. Two non-baptized people can be married outside the church and the church can still view that as valid. In fact, the church always assumes a marriage is valid until proven otherwise. Annulment doesn’t necessarily depend on the sacramental-ness of a marriage.


The title of the book is actually Annulment - The Marriage That Was: How the Church Can Declare a Marriage Null by Michael Smith Foster.



I don’t think so.

Thus my position that an annulment has to do with the sacramental validity of the marriage (and not the legal validity, or the validity in the eyes of those who took the vows, etc.)

People of other faith, can be and are of course “validly” married.

Of course the marriage contract would be valid whether the marriage was sacramental or not (at least until divorce) but it would not be a valid sacramental marriage in the eyes of the church.

i.e. If an un-baptized married couple came to the church and applied for an annulment (not sure why that would ever happen, but if it did) then the annulment could be granted instantly, even though conceptually they could still be in a “valid” legal marriage.

Thus my “rigid” definition. I think this is the only definition with which the cannon lawyers would be concerning themselves.



Well I’ll be from Missouri on this one.

Show me.



If she is not annulled, she is still married to the first husband and is therefore living in sin according to Catholic church. She may go to mass but may not receive communion.

An annulment does not make the child illegitimate.


It’s all in here Annulment - The Marriage That Was: How the Church Can Declare a Marriage Null by Michael Smith Foster.

If I have time tomorrow when I’m working from home I’ll post some of the text for you. But that poster is right - there is such a thing as a valid marriage that is not sacramental. Just because someone is married in a Jewish ceremony, for example, does not mean it is not a valid union. It may not be sacramental (which it isn’t), but it may still be valid. Therefore, regardless of how or where a person was married, if they wish to re-marry in the Catholic Church, they must have any previous union investigated by the Tribunal to verify if it was a valid union or not. They are not looking for Sacramental, they are looking for valid. Big difference.



The Church, to my understanding, has always been very clear that the children of an annulled marriage are by no means illegitimate. Can’t put my hands on any specific support or argumementation for this right now though.


sacramental does not equal valid
it is entirely possible for two non-baptized persons to contract a valid marriage (or for a non-sacramental, or natural, marriage between a baptized and a non-baptized person to be valid)
the annulment proceeding, considers among other things whether the marriage was sacramental, but by itself, that is not the determining factor in judging validity.


Does it really matter? Legitimacy doesn’t play a role in NAmerican law.


You are incorrect. Validity and sacramentality are not interchangeable terms. Canon Law states that a valid marriage between two baptized persons is also a sacrament.

A valid marriage between non-baptized persons or one baptize and one non-baptized person is not a sacrament-- but it is VALID (providing it meets all canonical requirements).

If both persons are baptized, then your statement is not correct. Two Methodists who are baptized, for example, contract a valid and sacramental marriage.

If one of the people is not baptized then you are correct-- the marriage is valid, but not a sacrament. Marriages of non-baptized persons are called natural marriages.

This statement is wholly incorrect.

First, unbaptized persons applying for a decree of nullity would not have a decree of nullity “granted instantly”. Their marriage is presumed to be valid and they would have to have canonical grounds upon which to petition for a decree of nullity just like everyone else.

The only addition to this is that unbaptized persons could apply for the Pauline or Petrine Privilege (depending upon whether their former spouse was baptized or not), which is NOT a decree of nullity but the dissolution of a valid marriage bond in favor of the faith.

Your definition is not adequate from a canon law perspective. I recommend you get a copy of the Foster book which will help clear up some of your misconceptions. After reading the book, read the relevant canons in canon law as well.


If your friend’s marriage were found to be null, your friend would have what is called a putative marriage-- one that was entered into in good faith and then later found to be invalid through the nullity process:

Can. 1061 §3. An invalid marriage is called putative if at least one party celebrated it in good faith, until both parties become certain of its nullity.

Canon Law specifically states that a child born of a putative mariage is legitimate:

Can. 1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate.


Thank you for all your answers. If the subject comes up again I will at least have something to say to her.


My mother has always used this as an excuse to not get an annulment, in spite of my repeated explainations about the issue. Always rather puzzled me since my brother and I are adoptees.:hmmm: :shrug:

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