Is there annulment in countries with no divorce?


Until recently, in many Catholic countries, there was no divorce. Ireland comes to mind, as well as the Philippines. Given that one needs to have a decree of divorce before one can petition a tribunal for an annulment, wouldn’t that mean in such a country an ecclesiastical decree of nullity would be impossible?


This is not a given and Canon Law does not state anything to this effect.


The judge has a duty toward reconciliation before accepting a case.

In countries such as the US, the final divorce decree is a form of proof for the judge that there is no hope of reconciliation forthcoming.

Can.* 1676 Before accepting a case and whenever there is hope of a favorable outcome, a judge is to use pastoral means to induce the spouses if possible to convalidate the marriage and restore conjugal living.


In the Philippines, there is both civil marriage and civil nullity. I’m not sure if a civil declaration of nullity must preceed a petition to a church tribunal.

Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive to present a case for civil nullity, so most couples who part company don’t bother with it. I have a brother in law whose wife left him, and who would have a good case for nullity (both civil and church) if he would pursue it, but he hasn’t done so.




I find it interesting that the introductory message is still signed by Jaime Cardinal Sin, not Luis Cardinal Tagle.


No, you don’t need a civil divorce first.

In the US they ask for a civil divorce to be complete first as it takes care of the separation and closes most doors to possible reconciliation.


Yep, it’s even a specific line of questioning the judge must ask prior to finalizing the divorce…from experience.


I read it, and I am still confused by this. I understand, as you mentioned earlier, that nowhere in canon law is there a requirement for divorce preceding an annulment process. But, if that is the case, how would this work? Are you saying that technically, the church could, in such countries, decree that a marriage is null even if they are still civilly married? (And does anyone know of any cases where this has happened?)


The church really doesn’t care about civil divorce. It is something they work with to endure the couple is really all in.

So yes the church could grant annulment and someone remains civilly married. At that point they could in Gods eyes remarry but in the state’s eyes they could not which causes a conflict that is most easily avoided by the church requesting a civil divorce of the parties before annulment.


Yes the Church could do that.


The Philippines and the Vatican are the only two countries that have no legal divorce.

And in the Philippines, civil annulments are the only possibility.

To back up what another poster noted, even annulments are often just not pursued. I know a guy who is a pastor of a small baptist church who had a first wife, ditched her and is with another woman now who isn’t his wife and they are living in Hawaii (yeah… a baptist minister… who I know personally and I found to be quite flawed in many other areas of morality).

There is a small movement of legislators who want to legalise divorce, though I’m guessing it won’t go anywhere.

I know people who’ve had multiple marriages, I’m not sure but I think they get divorced and remarried overseas, though the Philippine government will not give recognition to the subsequent marriages.

Until some years ago, Malta also did not permit divorce, until their government legalised it. I’d imagine they also had annulments. It seems imprudent for any government to not have the possibility for annulments even if they don’t have legal divorce. It just seems like it would be a necessity at times of, say, fraud.


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