Is past childhood abuse grounds for annulment?

If one spouse was abused as a child in such a way that it contributes to that spouse behaving in a way that leads to marital problems, and the abused spouse never revealed this history to the other spouse prior to marriage, is that potentially grounds for an annulment?

If both parties are still married to each other, their focus should be on saving the marriage, not on seeking grounds for an annulment. Assuming that the behavioral problems do not include cruelty that endangers the other spouse’s health or safety or the health or safety of any children the couple may have, there is an obligation on the part of both spouses to try and fix the problems that endanger their marriage. In any case, ordinarily speaking, an annulment cannot be sought until a civil divorce is obtained. For referrals to Christian counselors who can help the spouses with individual and marital therapy, I recommend the Pastoral Solutions Institute and CatholicTherapists.com.

If a divorce has already occurred because the behavioral problems have created an unliveable condition in the home (e.g., abuse, addiction, adultery, abandonment) and the innocent spouse is wondering if an annulment might be possible, then he or she should consult with the local parish on how to begin the annulment process. During the process the tribunal will determine whether both spouses were of sufficient mental health at the time of the marriage to give matrimonial consent and thus receive the sacrament of matrimony.

**Recommended reading:

Breaking Vows: When Faithful Catholics Divorce** by Tom Hoopes
Annulments and the Catholic Church by Edward Peters

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