Because of some painful family history, my dad and mom had to separate many years ago, and my mom's lawyer convinced her that what my dad really wanted was a divorce. Hardly true --- like most converts, my dad is very devout. For several years after this, my dad was hanging on by a thread taking care of myself and my little sister. About the time I was in high school, my sister became a boy-crazy seventh grader, one without a mom that meant anything to her. By my junior year, my dad started dating the woman who would become my stepmother, and they married before I left high school.
For reasons I only learned two days ago, my dad chose not to get an annulment. There would have been grounds for an annulment, easily. My mom is very severely bipolar and hid this from my dad until years into the marriage, at least until my sister was born and her condition worsened considerably. This issue --- specifically, rarely taking her meds --- was what lead to the separation and then divorce in the first place. Reportedly, he chose not to get the annulment because my sister needed a mom then and not three years down the road --- three years rather than one or two because my dad feared that very likely my unbalanced mom, supported fiercely by her mother, would contest it as far as they could. This would have an even greater negative effect on myself and my sister, I am sure.
My understanding is that an annulment means that a marriage never took place to begin with, that for whatever reason it was always or became invalid or illicit. Clarity on this particular point matters to me. I know my dad acted with the best intentions, and I firmly believe that he made the right decision, for my sister's sake and for his own.
I have one specific question: Is an annulment a formalization of the reality of a situation --- an official declaration that a marriage doesn't exist --- or does the annulment process in and of itself formally dissolve the marriage? If neither, both, or incompletely understood, then what is it? I know divorce and remarriage is not one of those intrinsic evils. There must be some wiggle room when it might hypothetically be allowable, and, if so, I firmly believe and hope this situation is one of them.
(Would this be better asked to an apologist in the Apologetics forum?)