Marriage and annulment - my search for answers


#1

I have chosen to seek guidance/advice by utilizing the Catholic Answers forum for a couple of reasons. It has been a good source of guidance for me in the past and I have been unable to find adequate answers through my own research.

I will begin by providing some background, as my situation is somewhat unique (or so it seems).

When I first met my wife she was not a baptized Catholic. After we started dating she grew interested in the faith and ultimately made the decision to attend RCIA and was baptized. We dated for over 4 years before we got married, and we did everything right. We abstained from premarital sex, we lived separately (even though it would have been more convenient to live together), we attended mass together, and we frequently prayed the rosary together. We both knew the faith well and attended marriage preparation before we got married. Suffice it to say, we were well aware of what it meant to enter into the sacrament of marriage.

We were only married for 10 months when I found out my wife was having an affair. She left me for him and we got a civil divorce. She has since married him and they now have a child together. It has been 3 years since we’ve been separated.

Herein is where my dilemma arises. Should I seek an annulment despite believing wholeheartedly that we entered into a valid sacramental marriage? I recognize that I am not an expert in the matter but I have a good understanding of what constitutes a valid marriage and I don’t believe any elements were present at the time of our marriage that would declare it null.

Another question I have found myself pondering is a hypothetical one where a marriage is falsely nullified. We know that a valid marriage can never be dissolved, so if an inadequate investigation results in a valid marriage being declared null, what are the subsequent consequences?


#2

You, not being a mind reader, cannot speak for her. You can only speak for you.

I am sorry that happened. Her actions certainly seem to negate your above comment regarding what it means to enter the sacrament of marriage. Questions to consider are when the affair began, whether her conversion was sincere (sounds like she left the faith), and why she did what she did.

If you believe your marriage was valid, you have no grounds on which to pursue a decree of nullity.

You should consider, however, that you may not have all he information necessary to make such a determination.

Maybe. Maybe not. I wonder about her understanding of marriage just from what you have written. There must be much more to the story. Whether or not evidence supports grounds for nullity is not for me to say. Her side of the story would definitely add to the evidence one way or the other.

Well, if two different tribunals (and perhaps 3 if it is also appealed to the Rota) concur regarding nullity it seems unlikely that “inadequate investigation” would be in play. But those who, after an honest investigation of the tribunal, find them free to marry would not have any “consequence” if such a finding was in error. If someone purposely defrauded the tribunal, well then they would be culpable and would have to stand in judgment before God.


#3

Thank you for your response “1ke”, I really appreciate it.

Your responses make a lot of sense. I am particularly hung up on one of your responses though. You state that:

“If you believe your marriage was valid, you have no grounds on which to pursue a decree of nullity.”

I have certainly considered the points you raised regarding my inability to know her level of understanding, but when I take everything into account I still conclude that it was a valid marriage… with that being said, am I still able to open an investigation into its validity? I hate to describe it as “seeking an annulment” because I really just want to seek the truth, regardless of what the outcome may be.


#4

You will probably get an annulment based on her not intending to be faithful. You may not have known it. Other supposedly valid Catholic marriages have been dissolved based on “facts” discovered after the fact. Read Shattered Faith by Sheila Rauch Kennedy. She also thought she was in a valid well prepared for marriage but her husband got an annulment from it anyway.


#5

I would guess that, giving how quickly your wife strayed and abandoned the marriage (I assume she left?), her intent and understanding was not what you thought it was - or what you hoped it was. What was her reason for the affair and for leaving? (You don’t have to share it here, but there must be more to the story.)

My advice would be for you to pray for guidance and to speak to a priest about it. And I’m sorry you find yourself in this heartbreaking and difficult situation.


#6

I probably worded that poorly. I meant that if you sincerely believe it valid, you would have no reason to pursue nullity, having no grounds in mind.

Yes. If the Church agrees sufficient evidence exists to have doubts, they will take the case.


#7

sscott - I would be really disappointed if an annulment was granted on those bases, because I don’t think for a second that she intended to be unfaithful.

DAML72 - you raise a good point. I often try to understand why things happened the way they did, but I can’t reach an explanation. Regardless of why it happened, I’m convinced it was a gradual process that wasn’t evident at the time of our marriage, which would have no effect on its validity.

1ke - I do believe that our marriage was valid, but part of me wishes it wasn’t because the thought of being devoted to a wife that has a child with another man is hard pill to swallow.

It is said that the first priority within a marriage is to ensure that your spouse gets to heaven. I don’t know how to do that if I am unable to be a husband.


#8

Isn’t there an except in cases of adultery? She committed adultery so your marriage which should have been valid was nullified because of her infidelity…


#9

In Matthew 5:32 it states:
“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress…”

This might lead one to believe that marital unfaithfulness is an exception. I know that the Catholic church does not support this argument. The church holds that if a valid sacramental marriage takes place, it can’t be dissolved. This is further supported in Matthew 19:6 “…Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”


#10

Annullment is about what the situation was *at the time of the marriage. *Adultery which occurs *after *the wedding has no bearing except in those cases where it might be evidence that the adulterer *at the time of the marriage *had no intention of remaining faithful. which I believe is what others are suggesting here.


#11

Joshua,
What a sad situation! My sympathies to you. I think that annullment is a topic best brought up with your priest rather than with us random strangers on the internet :wink:

The fact that you believe the marriage was valid is really no more indicative than those divorced people who believe their marriages were invalid. Those with the knowledge and better information than you are the ones who determine the validity or lack thereof.

Crazy as this may sound… because this woman was received into the Church, if the marriage were indeed invalid, you could be doing her a favor by looking into the matter–she may at some point want to rectify her life and return to the Church and this would free her to do so quickly.

If it were to turn out that your marriage was valid, since she has removed herself from your influence, I would suggest that all you could do to help her attain Heaven would be to pray for her and offer up any suffering you might have in this area for her salvation.


#12

What a kind post! :slight_smile:


#13

What happens after the marriage has taken place is not grounds for annulment. Infidelity does not nullify a marriage.
Only matters up to the marriage are considered, although things that happen during a marriage may be used to support grounds prior to the marriage.


#14

If you take two people of a similar affective immaturity or with a psychological disorder of some sort that isn’t readily evident at the time of the marriages.

Person A goes into their marriage fully believing themselves to be entering a valid marriage, develops the consequent maturity or does self work and heals inner deficiencies… their marriage is still considered a valid marriage regardless of the not so evident deficiencies that existed at the moment of marriage.

Person B goes into their marriage fully believing themselves to be entering a valid marriage, takes a different route through dilemmas than person A, and has an affair and leaves a marriage before the year is up. The behaviour, which seems quite strange to the partner and to the average person, can be understood by professionals competent in psychological issues and emotional states, to indicate an unresolved lack of sufficient maturity at the time of the wedding to have truly comprehended at any depth what they were committing to.

In that situation, the infidelity caused the nullity. Person A might look back on their condition on the wedding day and recognise deficiencies in their capacity to marry, but wouldn’t on its own indicate an invalid marriage.

The OPs confidence in his wifes competence at the time is premature. That needs to be assessed by experts in Canon Law and the psyche. One way or the other, going through that process can give you answers and some sort of closure. One way or the other.


#15

Thanks a lot for that response. The point you bring up regarding “doing her a favor” is something I never considered. You’ve shed some new light on the situation. See, getting feedback from you “random strangers” isn’t so bad :thumbsup: haha. I will certainly seek priestly guidance though. Thanks again!


#16

What would happen if she elected not to take part in the annulment process?


#17

The case that I know of personally, the ex husband did not take part. The woman was able to get others who knew both of them reasonably well though, to make statements.

Here is a site that may help you with some of your questions, but taking the first step of talking to a Priest would probably be best.

canonlawprofessionals.com/annulmentquestions.html#Q10


#18

What happens DURING the marriage, eg infidelity does NOT nullify a marriage. Please do not say that. Things that take place during the marriage may act as support for grounds up to the marriage but are not in themselves grounds for annulment.


#19

Everyone is confirming that what happens after the wedding is not of importance to the tribunal, which is true. Using Prince Charles as an example, if he were Catholic, his marriage to Diana could have been annulled because he had no intentions of entering into a faithful marriage at the time of the wedding. The OP doesn’t know for sure what his wife was thinking while they were preparing for marriage. She may or may not lie about it depending if she wants an annulment or not. I am willing to bet she is not interested in being Catholic anymore, it was something she was interested in while she was dating. In which case she doesn’t care about an annulment.
You really need to read Shattered Faith. A lot of people think that an Episcopalian had no right to question the working of the tribunal, but she felt the whole annulment system is filled with fraud. She fought the original proceedings and lost. She appealed to Rome and the annulment was reversed. So yes, a Catholic can get married and then find that the marriage isn’t valid because of an annulment reversal. Her ex is now living in sin.


#20

I wanted to counter the rigid way you express the significance of the factors involved, that wasn’t reflecting the place of grace in sacramental marriage. Defects in form or impediments are something that can be ridgidly determined by factors on the day of the wedding and before. But the capacity for consent and intent aren’t determined with such a strict equation. The grace bestowed by the sacramental marriage, if co-operated with by the couple can heal that kind of defect at any point within the life of the marriage. What happens after the marriage is more significant to the determination of nullity in these stituations than if other defects existed.


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