How to ease daughter's fears concerning annulment?


I have recently returned to the Church, but before I did so, I remarried outside the Church. My wife and I are going through the annulment process at this time and plan to be married in the Church.

I’ve heard that annulment does not render children illegitimate, but don’t know HOW to explain this very well. My eldest daughter is VERY upset about this. (She is not Catholic. I converted in the 90’s)

Can someone point me to info that will help me understand this issue better and communicate it to my daughter?

Thank you very much and God bless you!

Canon 1137

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

Code of Canon Law

I’m not sure if legitimacy is really all that helpful a category in today’s society. On the one hand, illegitimacy is incredibly common, and on the other hand, I think some of the legal ramifications (like parental duties toward illegitimate offspring or inheritance conflicts) of (il)legitimacy are overcome by the ability to scientifically determine paternity.

As far as pastorally addressing the situation with your daughter, I might try to explain that the categories of legitimacy and illegitimacy do not make any judgments about the persons involved, they simply reflect the objective marital status of the parents. So even if she were considered illegitimate (which she isn’t), this shouldn’t be upsetting if it reflected the truth of the situation.

Thank you VERY much! :slight_smile:

The topic is very important to my daughter, but I do appreciate your input. God bless! :slight_smile:

My parents got an annulment after I was born. I don’t see the big deal if one is “legitimate” or not. :shrug:

What, specifically, is your daughter upset about?

She doesn’t want to be deemed illegitimate. There is a post above which gives the answer in Canon law. Of course, she may well still have a visceral reaction, but hopefully this will help her to understand.

Well, then, the Canon should put that to rest.

There’s a good book called Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster. If your daughter continues to have issues, perhaps this book would be a good investment. It explains a very complex concept and process in very simple terms with good examples.

A good first question might be, “Hold old is your daughter?” I take it this your daughter from your previous attempt at marriage.

If she is under 4 or 5, she shouldn’t understand anything.

If she is between 5 and 9 or 10, she might have a vague idea, but it would have to be more the contribution of what she’s being told than what she understands. She then needs to know her daddy loves her, her daddy ALWAYS loves her, and he is ALWAYS going to be her daddy. You can try to explain it, but it’s a hard concept for grown-ups. Reassurance, along with ice cream and hugs, is needed in large doses.

A tween or a teen might have a better understanding, but the younger she is, the more she needs to know that this does not effect her; that it is ecclesiatic or “church-related” in nature, and little old Canon law 1137- along with reassurance that her daddy loves her, her daddy ALWAYS loves her, and he is ALWAYS going to be her daddy.

An older teen or young adult might give you a rough way to go, particularly if she wasn’t too keen on the divorce in the first place. Unreasonability in this instance can be met only if the daughter is willing to listen. You’ll have to catch her when she’s calm, when she’s away from the other parent, and when she is willing to listen to what you have to say. You can use a book (and the …Wedding That Was is very good). You can use Internet printed pages. In addition, she has to reassured that you are not trying to have her declared illegitmate by your actions, that you aren’t out to disinherit her, etc. And of course, even though she is all grown up- she needs to know that her daddy loves her, her daddy ALWAYS loves her, and he is ALWAYS going to be her daddy (Bring ice cream).

This is where I am confused. You and your new wife are seeking annulments for your previous marriages, or you are seeking an annulment with this wife, in order to remarry in the Church?

I thought it might also be helpful to post the definition of a ‘putative’ marriage

Canon 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.

From the Code of Canon Law.

Legitimacy or illegitimacy of offspring is a matter of civil law. If the marriage to which a child is born is recognized by civil law, the child is legitimate. In this country church weddings are recognized by civil law. Divorce followed by a church annulment after the fact of the birth has no impact on the legitimacy.

My new wife and I are seeking annulments. My daughter’s mother and I divorced back in '83. Our daughter was on the way, and the Pastor at our Church told us in no uncertain terms that it was God’s will for us to marry because of the pregnancy. We didn’t want to marry, but since the pressure was on (and I DO mean pressure), and we were told it was God’s will, we did so. HUGE mistake for all parties concerned.

Outstanding book, and your daughter is certainly old enough to understand the contents.

I just hate the word “illegitimate” when it comes to children - I hate to think that ANY child is “illegitimate”, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, but I do understand the distinction. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.


Thanks Liza!

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