Should I Get an Annulment?


What I’m wondering about is this: is there any point in getting an annulment if you aren’t in a new relationship?

My ex and I were married for five years. About three weeks before our fifth wedding anniversary, he confessed that he had fallen in love with a co-worker, and wanted to be with her. So we divorced.

Within a few months after our divorce, he stopped seeing the other woman (or so he said), and we began to spend time together again. (Yes, a stupid choice on my part, made out of loneliness.) It was then that God chose to bless us with a child. Within a month of our finding out I was pregnant, he went back to the other woman. And they were married the next month.

I have been happily divorced for almost eleven years now. My son, who is nine, is the joy of my life. While I still struggle with hostility sometimes towards my ex, I am trying to achieve complete forgiveness. (And honestly, having witnessed some of his life choices, I know in my heart that we’re better off.)

Would there be anything to be accomplished by obtaining an annulment? I haven’t been out on even one date in all these years, and won’t consider it until my son, who has autism, is older. But I sometimes feel angry to still be sacramentally bound to this man, who did not allow this bond to stop him from doing whatever he wanted.


Really, on matters such as this, you should talk with a Priest, especially as it
concerns a Sacrament.

God Bless you and your son.


It depends on what you want. I would speak to a priest and discern what’s needed. Regardless, some people do find it a therapeutic process to go through the entire relationship and realize it wasn’t anyone’s fault.



To be precise, what you are able to do is ask a competent Tribunal of the Church to examine your marriage and determine your status in the Church. The title of this thread makes it seem as if you simply ask for and automatically receive a declaration of nullity. And, you should not consider dating until you are declared free to marry (Here ends the canon lawyer’s nitpicking).

Anyway, I would suggest that you do pursue this as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to build a strong case that you should not be considered married to this person. As time passes, people forget pertinent facts, memories fade, etc. You should also consider whether waiting longer would make it less or more likely that the other Party would helpfully participate (maybe it wouldn’t make any difference). Since you do not want to be considered bound to this marriage, see if the Church agrees and says you are not.



Below is good advice … I would only add that* the time to seek a decision on the sacramentality of your marriage is before you would be in a relationship* - not once you have … If you are still married in the eyes of God - you should not even consider dating …seeking a decision now - before you are invested in a particular outcome - allows for you to honestly look at the conditions that existed at the time of the marriage and to take the time to completely answer the questions without worrying about when the decision will come and what the decision will be …

This is also true for your witnesses - it allows them to be honest and candid without the pressure of knowing that you have planned a marriage and knowing that how they answer may impact whether you will be able to marry again [at least in the church] or not …


If you are considering dating, I’d say “yes”, to see if annulment is possible. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not.

Ideally, when there is a divorce, I think if one’s considering annulment, it’s best to seek it right away. Well, I saw a person who got an annulment years and years after a divorce. It got much more complicated, because by then, the ex-wife had moved, not given him the new address. He found a mailing address, but it was decades after the fact, and his ex-wife was furious , more or less asking…“Why now after all these years?!”

No, the sooner the better. If you are even considering dating, best to work this out, now, one way or another, what’s to be. The tribunal will let you know if it’s even possible.


I agree that the time to do this is now.

  1. It’s a burden for you to know you are still sacramentally bound to your ex. You’d feel that weight lifted from you if an annulment were granted.

  2. It’s the Christian thing to do for the sake of your ex and his new wife. Their immortal souls are in danger as they are committing adultery unless/until your former marriage is declared null.

  3. The process takes a long time, somewhere between 1 and 3 years on average. Might as well get going now and have the process completed before you meet someone.

  4. The annulment process offers an opportunity to examine yourself, your spouse, and your former marriage in a way you probably haven’t before. I found the annulment process enabled me to heal and truly let go.


I would apply for an annulment. You are no longer living as man and wife and it is time to leave the past behind you.


See if your parish has a person assigned to work with annulment cases. There is often a fairly simple first step to determine if there are grounds that would support your request to the Tribunal. It gets the “easy” questions out of the way. My recommendation would be to investigate this first step and then decide if you want to go through the whole process. Depending on which grounds you are looking at, the process could be more or less complicated.


Consider this:

The Church does not recognize divorce. In God’s eyes you are still married to your husband.
Since you are not currently “seeing” anyone and have no intentions for a relationship… an annulment is not really necessary in your case. Your husband has chosen to live in sin. That’s his problem.

However, since you indicate that you may consider a relationship later in life, I would recommend you begin looking into the annulment process now. It can take up to a year after all the initial paperwork is completed and longer if complications arise. You wouldn’t want to keep a “Mr Wonderful” waiting in the wings while you run around the diocese filling our forms and making appeals to the Tribunal.

I know it’s hard to see your husband being such a jerk about the Faith. Just remember you are doing the right thing. Hang in there.


My son went through an annulment and it was the best thing he ever did. He had to face himself and the mistakes he made. The wording of the annulment itself was compassionate.


I think that it would be a good thing to go through an annulment. This is unfinished business and it would be wise to just go ahead and find out where you are and what your future may be.


You never know. Mr. Right has a way of showing up out of the blue. It would be best to have your previous marriage resolved before he makes an appearance. Plus, as someone already mentioned, it gets harder as time passes, potential witnesses die or move away, and your memory of important facts fade.

I vote for getting it done.


I hope we are all on the same page here.

Just to clarify, the granting of an annulment, more properly called a decree of nullity, does not mean that in the eyes of the Church a valid sacramental marriage no longer exists because of divorce, separation, adultery, change of heart, etc. Rather it means that after examining the circumstances, the Church declares that for some particular reason(s) a valid sacramental marriage never existed in the first place. And divorce, separation, adultery, change of heart, etc. are not in themselves such reasons.

The reasons (impediments) that a valid sacramental marriage never existed can be simple or complicated. As several have mentioned, you can usually discover whether or not you have a reasonable expectation for an annulment with a simple conversation with your pastor or someone from your diocesan marriage tribunal without beginning the formal process.

Also, as mentioned previously, it is very advisable to begin the process sooner than later as the passage of time can make the investigation of the circumstances more difficult.


Its not just a case of seeking an annulment and then it will be given. It doesn’t work that way.
You have described things which happened after your marriage took place. Nothing that happens after the marriage is grounds for annulment. It doesn’t matter if your husband commits adultery, is a drunkard, is abusive to you or whatever. These may well be grounds for you to separate but none of these are grounds for an annulment.
Grounds for annulment apply only to things which were known PRIOR to the marriage.


Thank you, everyone, for your helpful and thoughtful replies. There is excellent advice here.

I think I worded my initial post badly. Of course, I know that the annulment process is by no means a rubber stamp, and that one can answer many embarrassing personal questions, spend a considerable sum of money, wait all that time, and still not be granted a declaration of nullity. But I think I will give it a try, even if it’s only for my own peace of mind. I will make an appointment with my pastor or with whoever handles annulments in our parish.

Actually, my ex and the other woman only stayed married for two years, so they are no longer living in sin, but he was not a practicing Catholic (baptized only), so it didn’t matter to him anyway. We have remained on (mostly) cordial terms for our son’s sake, and I think he will cooperate in the process if I ask.

I dread answering the deeply personal questions that I know will be required, but as some have pointed out, this may be very beneficial and therapeutic.

Thanks again for your advice.



I’m happy for you. Truly, the annulment process is therapeutic.

I do not know your financial situation or which diocese you will apply to, but the Church never turns anyone away who cannot pay. The Church is willing to make payment arrangements, offer a reduced fee, or even do an annulment for free if the Petitioner cannot afford the fees. Some archdiocese in low income areas even do annulments for free.

Yes, the questions can be personal and embarrassing. However, considering the Church is trying to compassionately resolve a marriage issue one way or another, I don’t think the questions were too personal or too embarrassing. Remember, you aren’t that original! The folks at the tribunal have seen and heard it all before, believe me. And they are bound to be discreet. Nothing you say will be bantered about.

I did mine on my computer. I went to my archdiocese website, clicked the “marriage and family” section, found the link to the annulment paperwork, downloaded it, and began filling it out. I found myself editing, adding, rephrasing, etc. quite a lot. I think it took me about 3-4 day to be satisfied with my responses. If I remember right, the whole application for annulment was about 21 pages by the time I was done. This includes the pages were instructions and the pages of Witness names and addresses. It was surprisingly uncomplicated. And I felt so much better just having filled out the papers!

You will need copies of your marriage record, your divorce papers, your Baptismal record, pre-cana records if you were married in the Church, any counseling or police reports related to the marriage and updated names and addresses of 3-4 people who knew you and your ex before the marriage and during the early part of the marriage that are willing to answer a questionnaire about the marriage and who would have knowledge of the relationship between you and your ex.

For me, witnesses and paperwork were the hardest part. I had to send away to another state for the records requested and I had a hard time finding people who both qualified as Witnesses and who were willing to help. If I were you, I’d get started asking old friends and family if they would be willing to be Witnesses and gathering any paperwork you don’t currently have. The more you have done before meeting with your pastor, the faster you can turn in the paperwork and the faster the Tribunal can make a decision.

I was so gung-ho about getting mine done that I had everything in hand and ready to go when I met with my priest for the first time. All he had to do was make copies, review my questionnaire to determine grounds, and send it all to the Tribunal. He got a laugh at how prepared I was when I came into the office, :wink:


Thanks, MJJean. I have looked into the fee, which is partially subsidized by my diocese, and I will only have to pay $450, and the diocese had a recommended fee schedule on their website, so I don’t have to pay it all at once.

Regarding witnesses: will they require some from both families? I’m sure my parents and siblings would be glad to be witnesses, but I don’t know how receptive his family would be.


The Church asks for Witnesses from both sides, if possible. Obviously, that’s not always going to be possible. For example, my ex’s family is not religious and wouldn’t participate in the process. I ended up choosing my closest female friend, my step-father, and three other friends who met both myself and my ex shortly before or just after we married.

When choosing witnesses you really want to go with people who knew you well and who were aware of any problems before and after the marriage that demonstrate the marriage was somehow flawed from the beginning according to Catholic understanding of marriage. You want people you confided in and who actually saw behaviors detrimental to marriage first hand.

My marriage was a train wreck. I talked about divorcing my ex literally hours before the ceremony. He was abusive, he was a thief and a chronic liar, he was terribly irresponsible. We were both unfaithful. I was not religious when I married and saw it as a civil/legal social custom, not a sacrament. So, I chose people who had intimate knowledge of those facts.

It’s imperative you be totally and completely honest. This is not about assigning blame to any one spouse. If you had doubts, if you did wrong, admit to it. I am certainly not proud of my behavior and choices, but these things are important to the case and the Tribunal needs to know about them.

Unearthing all those memories wasn’t easy. Admitting to my part also wasn’t easy. But it is the right thing to do and will be so worth it when my case is resolved.


As someone who’s received my first affirmative decision and expecting the second (and confirming) decision any day now, I just wanted to add something regarding the negative feelings surrounding the idea of answering embarrassing questions or dredging up bad memories.
Think of it as going into the ER after a deep cut or severe abrasion. That wound has to be cleaned out before it’ll heal correctly, and the cleaning process is going to cause additional pain. The alternative is living with a poorly healed wound that could become infected down the road.

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