Is chronic substance abuse grounds for an annulment?

My husband became addicted to heroin 2 and 1/2 years ago. I thought he was just depressed for the longest time. By the time he admitted his problem, we were buried in debt. I’ve done everything I can to help him recover…but have recently learned that he is still using drugs… I have lost all trust in him and worry about my and my son’s financial, legal, and emotional well being. I feel as if I have no choice but to divorce to protect both my son and I. Would this be grounds for an annulment…and even if an annulment is granted, I am afraid that I will be forever guilt-riden about my decision to divorce.

It sounds as though your husband’s drug abuse began some time after your wedding. The timing is important because the annulment process looks into the validity of a marriage as it existed at the time of the wedding.

In his book Annulments and the Catholic Church Edward Peters answers a similar question concerning alcoholism:

“Active alcoholism which does not manifest itself until several years into the marriage is less likely [than alcoholism which existed at the time of the wedding] to serve as the basis of nullity… Still the petitioner (or the respondent, for that matter) would be allowed to introduce evidence that the same factors that contributed to the later active alcoholism also prevented the assumption of matrimonial obligations at the time of the wedding…” (p. 72-73).

Regardless of whether your marriage is valid or not, your husband’s behavior may be grounds for canonical separation and possibly even civil divorce without constituting a moral offense (cf. Catechism 2384).

For more information I suggest consulting a Canon Lawyer.

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