How can a 20-year marriage with 3 kids really be annulled?


#1

My husband and I may be getting a divorce, although that is not the real purpose of this post and I would prefer not to go into it.

However, I had a question: if we divorce, we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

What I’m wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage, in which 3 beautiful children were produced? It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

Can anyone explain it?


#2

[quote="3xblessed, post:1, topic:305033"]
My husband and I may be getting a divorce, although that is not the real purpose of this post and I would prefer not to go into it.

However, I had a question: if we divorce, we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

What I'm wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage, in which 3 beautiful children were produced? It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

Can anyone explain it?

[/quote]

First, one does not annul a marriage. Your relationship is either a marriage or it is not a marriage. It has been this way from the beginning. The church marriage tribunal can be petitioned to judge whether a marriage exists, or not. Being non-Catholic at the time has little bearing on whether you have a valid marriage.

Validity of the marriage does not equal beautiful children. An invalid marriage does not change the legitimacy of the children. From the few examples I've seen, the validity of the marriage will have little to do with how much the children are hurt. It will be insignificant when compared to the hurt caused by the breakup.


#3

[quote="davidv, post:2, topic:305033"]
First, one does not annul a marriage. Your relationship is either a marriage or it is not a marriage. It has been this way from the beginning. The church marriage tribunal can be petitioned to judge whether a marriage exists, or not. Being non-Catholic at the time has little bearing on whether you have a valid marriage.

Validity of the marriage does not equal beautiful children. An invalid marriage does not change the legitimacy of the children. From the few examples I've seen, the validity of the marriage will have little to do with how much the children are hurt. It will be insignificant when compared to the hurt caused by the breakup.

[/quote]

So being together 20 years and having 3 kids is not a marriage?


#4

I'm sorry for your present situation. Life can be hard, to put it mildly.

I would recommend reading Annulment: The Wedding that Was. This book clears up a lot of questions about the process and is written in easily understandable English. :o

Generally, though, an annulment is a declaration by the Church that a valid marriage was never entered into in the first place. The length of time or the number of children does not change what condtitions were (or were not) present on the wedding day. That doesn't change the status of your children at all.

Don't hesitate to talk to your priest about this with any questions and concerns you might have. That's what he's there for.


#5

[quote="3xblessed, post:1, topic:305033"]
My husband and I may be getting a divorce, although that is not the real purpose of this post and I would prefer not to go into it.

However, I had a question: if we divorce, we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

What I'm wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage, in which 3 beautiful children were produced? It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

Can anyone explain it?

[/quote]

You seem to assume that a decree of nullity (a) is fairly automatic and (b) will be granted. Neither of these is true.

First, you must have grounds (and some proof) indicating an impediment existed at the time of your marriage in order for the tribunal to take the case under consideration. Neither "being young" nor "being non-Catholic" are grounds. So, it doesn't appear there is even a case as described.

I also suggest Michael Smith Foster's book, which can help clear up a lot of misconceptions.


#6

[quote="3xblessed, post:1, topic:305033"]
...we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

[/quote]

Please do not make this presumption - that is entirely up to the Tribunal to decide, and you do not want to set yourself up for disappointment. Your marriage presumed to be valid until proven otherwise.

What I'm wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage...

The church does not "annul" anything. Either the marriage was valid when it happened, or it was not. The only thing the church does is investigate the facts to determine validity.

..., in which 3 beautiful children were produced?

The presence or absence of children have nothing to do with the validity of a marriage. Having children does not validate an otherwise invalid marriage. Again - either it was valid the day of the wedding, or it was not. Anything that happened after that point has no bearing on whether or not it was valid.

It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, ...

Why is this so? You just said in your very first post that you already presume it will be invalid? :confused: What are you basing this on?

...and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

First - The point of the Tribunal is not to set out to deliberately hurt children. The goal is to determine if a marriage is valid or not - period.

Second - Divorce is horrific for children and should be avoided at all costs. Regardless of whether or not the marriage is valid, the children will have plenty to deal with. If anything, in the long run, if the marriage is indeed found to be invalid, it may explain some things to them with regard to the breakdown of the relationship.

I strongly suggest buying this book - it is extremely helpful in understanding the Annullment process: amazon.com/Annulment-Wedding-That-Was-Marriage/dp/0809138441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352834192&sr=8-1&keywords=the+wedding+that+was

~Liza


#7

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:3, topic:305033"]
So being together 20 years and having 3 kids is not a marriage?

[/quote]

Maybe not a sacramental marriage. :shrug:


#8

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:3, topic:305033"]
So being together 20 years and having 3 kids is not a marriage?

[/quote]

The actress Susan Sarandon and the actor Tim Robbins were together for about as long and I think had two children. Their relationship was not a marriage.


#9

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:3, topic:305033"]
So being together 20 years and having 3 kids is not a marriage?

[/quote]

Though these are desirable ends of a marriage they are not what makes a relationship a marriage.

Marriage is a covenant whereby each who are free to marry, freely consent to be married.

And specifically for a Catholic couple:


#10

As others have stated, the length of the putative marriage and number of children produced have no bearing on whether the marriage was validly entered into on the wedding day, before any of that happened.

Obviously, whatever the outcome of a nullity investigation, you had your wedding, you have legally been married for twenty years, and your children are legitimate. Nothing that actually occurred disappears or is retroactively undone by a declaration of nullity.

If you are satisfied that your marriage was validly entered into (even if it legally ends), you are in no way required to submit it to a tribunal. Only if you wish to marry someone else before your presumed husband's death would you have to allow the Church to investigate your presumed-valid first marriage.

It can indeed be hard to understand how a marriage that was lived out sincerely for so long might never have commenced properly. To illustrate, let me use a very obvious case. If you were to learn tomorrow that your husband had an earlier wife you never learned about, then it would become clear that your own putative marriage could never have come into existence. Even though you, and perhaps even your husband, have spent twenty years innocently and sincerely believing yourselves married, the reality is that you cannot have been. In that case, even your civil marriage could never have been entered into legally, since bigamy is against the law.

Of course, not many annulment cases are that clear-cut, but I hope you can see from this example how even a long and fruitful marriage could turn out not to have been a valid marriage in truth, entirely based on whether you were actually able to contract a marriage at the very beginning.

Usagi


#11

[quote="3xblessed, post:1, topic:305033"]
My husband and I may be getting a divorce, although that is not the real purpose of this post and I would prefer not to go into it.

However, I had a question: if we divorce, we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

What I'm wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage, in which 3 beautiful children were produced? It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

Can anyone explain it?

[/quote]

Frankly, I have to say that I wonder the same thing myself, as I've seen some long term marriages declared null.

I understand the process. The question is not the length of the marriage, or even what went wrong. The question is whether both parties had the capacity and intent to enter into a lifelong, faithful, fruitful, commitment when they made their vows. If something was lacking then, then a true marriage didn't take place.

I'm sure others can explain it better than me.

Saying, "Well, I meant it when I said it, but now I've changed my mind," doesn't work for me. The very meaning of a vow is that one doesn't change his or her mind. But I'm not on the tribunal!


#12

[quote="3xblessed, post:1, topic:305033"]
My husband and I may be getting a divorce, although that is not the real purpose of this post and I would prefer not to go into it.

However, I had a question: if we divorce, we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

What I'm wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage, in which 3 beautiful children were produced? It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

Can anyone explain it?

[/quote]

Take the simplest example.

Let's say one spouse had been previously married in the Church in another country, and then came to the US, married again (lasting 20 years) and had 3 children.

Would that marriage be valid?

God Bless


#13

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:3, topic:305033"]
So being together 20 years and having 3 kids is not a marriage?

[/quote]

So time, a piece of paper and kids are the sole ingredients of a marriage in your eyes? Ouch.

Catholics understand marriage as a sacrament in which a man and wife give themselves freely and totally to one another and trust in God to help them through the trials of life together while understanding that their love images Gods because it is ordered towards bringing new life into the world.

If two people living together with a piece of paper and some kids never had that, they never had it. The trick is in helping people tell whether they had it and abandoned it or never really had it at all. The tribunal is there to help in that process.

I GET the OP's confusion. I'm a child of such a failed attempt at marriage myself. The kids will have a hard time of it, but reality is what it is. There's no point in NOT asking the tribunal to help you discern out of some notion that it will protect the kids. If the marriage has been broken or if it never really existed, then the harm is already done. Working towards healing certainly won't make it worse.


#14

[quote="3xblessed, post:1, topic:305033"]
My husband and I may be getting a divorce, although that is not the real purpose of this post and I would prefer not to go into it.

However, I had a question: if we divorce, we could seek an annulment and would probably be granted one because we were very young when we got married (though not pregnant at the time of the wedding, fortunately) and we were not Catholic when we got married.

What I'm wondering is, how can you really annul a 20-year marriage, in which 3 beautiful children were produced? It just seems ridiculous to say that it was never valid, and it concerns me that saying the marriage was never valid would be even more hurtful to the kids, who would already have plenty of pain to deal with.

Can anyone explain it?

[/quote]

First, I pray for you and the kids for healing.

Second, I hope that "may be" can be counseled and turned around. Some marriages go through horrible trials, and I would suggest always leaving the door open to reconciliation. Love can conquer, if both parties are willing.

Third, do you understand what a sacramental marriage is? If you were thinking that you could get divorced later, or that it wasn't a proper commitment but just a piece of paper, then there really wasn't a sincere commitment. I see lots of marriages that aren't real, because the parties take the culture's view that it's for as long as their infatuation lasts and they can always move on later. A sacrament is so much more.


#15

Changing your mind after the wedding isn’t grounds for a decree of nullity. Sometimes your actions after the wedding are indicative of your intent (or lack of intent) during the wedding; but that’s another story.

Consider the following scenarios:

[LIST=1]
*]A man and woman move in together and live together for 30 years, raising five children together. They never have a wedding. They are not married. Some U.S. states would call them “common-law” married, but only if they held themselves out as married the whole time; and the Catholic Church would not consider them married.
*]Two teenagers have sex, and the girl’s father finds out. Very soon thereafter they have a shotgun wedding. The groom is asked “Will you have her as your wife?” and he responds, “Well, actually … [sound of gun cocking] … yeah! Sure!” They are not married. The courts in practically every state in the U.S. would issue – wait for it – a decree of nullity. So would the Catholic Church.
*]A man gets married and walks out on his wife. Several years later – without ever obtaining a divorce from his first wife – he marries another woman. They are not married. The courts in practically every state in the U.S. would issue – you guessed it – a decree of nullity. So would the Catholic Church.
[/LIST]
A decree of nullity can be granted by the civil courts. A decree of nullity can also be granted by the Catholic Church – but, since it isn’t a government, it can’t affect the civil rights of the parties. A Catholic decree of nullity only addresses the Catholic Church’s view of the status of the parties, whereas a Kansas or Oklahoma or New Hampshire decree of nullity actually affects the parties’ rights (they can’t be responsible for each other’s medical bills, they don’t inherit from each other, etc.).

A decree of nullity addresses only one thing: it declares that the parties’ putative (“apparent”) wedding did not occur validly. It has nothing to do with what happened after the wedding, because what happens after the wedding doesn’t affect the validity of the wedding. It only declares officially that the wedding wasn’t valid (for whatever reason).

Hope this helps.


#16

[quote="ConstantineTG, post:3, topic:305033"]
So being together 20 years and having 3 kids is not a marriage?

[/quote]

Marrriage is not the 20 years nor the kids that procreate!

It is a sacrament wether it was done in the Catholic Church or another accepted venue it remains a SACRAMENT.

The Church only can ascertain if the Sacrament is valid or not.

If it is invalid then the marriage never existed notwhistanding the 20 years or the beatiful kids.


#17

[quote="Godfollower, post:15, topic:305033"]
Changing your mind after the wedding isn't grounds for a decree of nullity. Sometimes your actions after the wedding are indicative of your intent (or lack of intent) during the wedding; but that's another story.

Consider the following scenarios:

[LIST=1]
]A man and woman move in together and live together for 30 years, raising five children together. They never have a wedding. They are not married. *Some** U.S. states would call them "common-law" married, but only if they held themselves out as married the whole time; and the Catholic Church would not consider them married.
*]Two teenagers have sex, and the girl's father finds out. Very soon thereafter they have a shotgun wedding. The groom is asked "Will you have her as your wife?" and he responds, "Well, actually ... [sound of gun cocking] ... yeah! Sure!" They are not married. The courts in practically every state in the U.S. would issue -- wait for it -- a decree of nullity. So would the Catholic Church.
*]A man gets married and walks out on his wife. Several years later -- without ever obtaining a divorce from his first wife -- he marries another woman. They are not married. The courts in practically every state in the U.S. would issue -- you guessed it -- a decree of nullity. So would the Catholic Church.
[/LIST]
A decree of nullity can be granted by the civil courts. A decree of nullity can also be granted by the Catholic Church -- but, since it isn't a government, it can't affect the civil rights of the parties. A Catholic decree of nullity only addresses the Catholic Church's view of the status of the parties, whereas a Kansas or Oklahoma or New Hampshire decree of nullity actually affects the parties' rights (they can't be responsible for each other's medical bills, they don't inherit from each other, etc.).

A decree of nullity addresses only one thing: it declares that the parties' putative ("apparent") wedding did not occur validly. It has nothing to do with what happened after the wedding, because what happens after the wedding doesn't affect the validity of the wedding. It only declares officially that the wedding wasn't valid (for whatever reason).

Hope this helps.

[/quote]

Yes, I understand. It has to do with whether the marriage was validly contracted at its outset. Because once married, it is permanent and unbreakable.

And yet, it sometimes seems to be somewhat analogous to the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of many Protestants. Somebody gets saved at age 21. Later, they turn into a serial murderer. Are the still saved? Well, no, because they were never really saved to begin with.

Yeah, maybe it's an unfair analogy. But in the end can anyone be sure they're saved? Can anyone be sure they're married?

There seem to be a lot of null marriages.


#18

Thank you for all the responses.

I am aware that the tribunal issues an annulment, or doesn't. However, it does seem to be a pretty foregone conclusion, at least in my diocese; I've never known anyone who didn't ultimately get the annulment they were seeking.

I guess I still have questions, though. For once, if we weren't aware that the marriage was sacramental on the wedding day because neither of us was Catholic, why wouldn't that inherently nullify it?

Neither of us went into it thinking it was temporary. Neither of us fooled each other on the wedding day. Sure, we didn't understand what marriage was really like, but I think few people really do on the wedding day. We've stuck it out for 20 years and it has been difficult almost every step of the way, with very little joy. We both believe that we married the wrong person and were meant to just be friends, although neither of us has other partners in the wings now or anything.

I guess I just don't understand why a marriage is invalid just because it wasn't in a Catholic church, nor do I understand how the marriage could be invalid if there was no deception, no expectation that it would be temporary, etc. We went into it expecting it to be for life, as I think most couples do. Why does the tribunal get to decide whether the marriage was valid in the eyes of God, especially if it comes down to some reasoning other than just the fact that we weren't married in the Church? Wasn't it valid if we both believed it was, and the annulment is just a get-out-of-jail-free card to get around the Church's prohibition on divorce?


#19

Church rules.

It doesn't make logical sense to me or to a lot of people, so I'm with you on being perplexed.

But from what I understand, it doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense to us or not or if we agree or not. Rules is rules.


#20

[quote="3xblessed, post:18, topic:305033"]
Thank you for all the responses.

I am aware that the tribunal issues an annulment, or doesn't. However, it does seem to be a pretty foregone conclusion, at least in my diocese; I've never known anyone who didn't ultimately get the annulment they were seeking.

I guess I still have questions, though. For once, if we weren't aware that the marriage was sacramental on the wedding day because neither of us was Catholic, why wouldn't that inherently nullify it?

Neither of us went into it thinking it was temporary. Neither of us fooled each other on the wedding day. Sure, we didn't understand what marriage was really like, but I think few people really do on the wedding day. We've stuck it out for 20 years and it has been difficult almost every step of the way, with very little joy. We both believe that we married the wrong person and were meant to just be friends, although neither of us has other partners in the wings now or anything.

I guess I just don't understand why a marriage is invalid just because it wasn't in a Catholic church, nor do I understand how the marriage could be invalid if there was no deception, no expectation that it would be temporary, etc. We went into it expecting it to be for life, as I think most couples do. Why does the tribunal get to decide whether the marriage was valid in the eyes of God, especially if it comes down to some reasoning other than just the fact that we weren't married in the Church? Wasn't it valid if we both believed it was, and the annulment is just a get-out-of-jail-free card to get around the Church's prohibition on divorce?

[/quote]

:thumbsup:


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