Status of children after annulment?


I have always wondered this. Forgive me if this is not posted in the right section…I wasn’t sure what this fell under. I figured Traditional Catholicism.

My question is: If two people have children while they are married, and then they civilly divorce, with an annulment to follow–what status are the children from that marriage? If the marriage was found to not be valid, are the kids affected by that?



According to the Church the children are still legitimate after an annulment however the reasoning doesn’t make sense to me. If the marriage “never happened” then the children would have to be considered bastards. It’s simple logic really.

Children born by parents who were never married = bastards
People who get an annulment = never married
Children from an annuled marriage = bastards

Frankly when parents split they should call it what it is a divorce and put the responsibility on the parents rather than the children.


Thank you for your reply. I don’t understand it myself. The Church may be viewing it however, as the situation not adversely affecting the children. So, the children were born to two people who were married legally, but if the couple’s marriage is annuled, the status shouldn’t be taken away. The Church has to be looking at the legality of it, then, and not the Sacramental side of it. Because I agree…if the marriage was annuled (couple was never married in the eyes of the Church)then, how does the RCC view the kids?:confused:


NO! This is a grave misconception. The marital status of the parents does not affect the status of the children. All children are created in God’s image and have equal status in the church. Neither civil law nor church law considers the children of an annulled marriage illegitimate. Nor does the annulment imply that the children were not the fruit of a genuine human love. Annulment is simply a decision on the circumstances surrounding a marriage that could prevent that marriage from being a sacramental marriage.





Bastard is a loaded term in everyday use, maybe I should have said illegitimate children. But it does have a legitimate usage much like the word ***** when describing a female dog. When describing a female dog it is just a word, when used in another contet it’s offensive.

The dictionary definition of “bastard” simply means a child born to unwed parents. If an annulment means there was no marriage, there is simply no way around the fact that an annulment makes bastards out of the children whose parents annul the marriage. If one uses logic and reason there is simply no other conclusion to come to.


The legitimacy of a child or children is a CIVIL/LEGAL matter.

Church declarations of nullity have no civil effects. Children born of the marriage maintain their legitimate status.


There are two types of marriage:

  1. natural marriage, which prevailed prior to Christ, which is legitimate under the natural law
  2. the Sacrament of Marriage, which is now preeminent, and which is Divinely instituted

If a couple receive an annulment, declaring that the Sacrament of Marriage never existed, their former marriage would then have the status of a natural marriage. The childen of a natural marriage are still legitimate. (see St. Thomas in the Summa:



Illegitimacy is a label once commonly assigned to individuals whose parents were not married. In most European nation-states (Scotland being the most notable exception), the child of unmarried parents was not a legitimate heir in law to its father’s estate – hence, the child was “[an] illegitimate [heir].”

From here:

I believe this term is no longer relevant in today’s world. Besides - no child is not legitimate in the eyes of God. Bastard or not. :mad:



Actually you are greatly mistaken.

An annulment does not make a child or children bastards or illegitimate. To state otherwise is a great offense to the children and to the Church.

*The parents, now divorced, presumably once obtained a civil license and entered upon a legal marriage. Children from that union are, therefore, their legitimate offspring. Legitimate means “legal.” The civil divorce and the Church annulment do not alter this situation. Nor do they change the parents’ responsibility toward the children. In fact, during annulment procedures the Church reminds petitioners of their moral obligation to provide for the proper upbringing of their children.

Nevertheless, persons pondering the Catholic annulment process do often express this concern about the legitimacy of the children after that procedure. It’s a persistent rumor.*

The marital status of the parents does not affect the status of the children. All children are created in God’s image and have equal status in the church. Neither civil law nor church law considers the children of an annulled marriage illegitimate. Nor does the annulment imply that the children were not the fruit of a genuine human love. Annulment is simply a decision on the circumstances surrounding a marriage that could prevent that marriage from being a sacramental


Folks let’s think about logic here how can the Church deem children being born a purely civil matter? That’s absurd it’s the center of our married life.

Now let’s look at the facts.

  1. Catholics can’t “divorce” and remarry because once you are married if you marry another you commit adultery.
  2. Catholics can re-marry after after an annulment. Therefore in the Churches eyes we have to believe that those people were never in fact married or else they would be commiting adultery in thier new marriages.
  3. If they had children while not married the children would have to be deemed illegitimate.

Of course in a civil matter the annulment has nothing to do with it. In a civil matter the people are divorced not annulled too. SInce when does civil decree trump the Church?

If you factor in the Churches logic when approving an annulment you have to come to the conclusion that the children would be illegitimate in the Churches eyes.


You’re complicating it too much.

Look at my logic it’s irrefutable. In the Churches eyes the children would have to be considered bastards (children born to unwed parents). If not then the annulment doesn’t actually mean the marriage never happened, if that’s the case all remarried people after annulments are adulterers.

I’m using very simple logic, if you remove any personal interest you have in the topic you can see it’s really simple.


Canon law states that “children who are conceived or born of a valid or of a putative marriage are legitimate.” A marriage which is eventually discerned to be invalid through the annulment process was nevertheless considered valid by both parties at the time of the wedding, and presumably at the time the children were conceived. This constitutes a “putative marriage”, and children conceived in such a relationship are therefore legitimate.

Canon 1137 of the Code of Canon Law specifically affirms the legitimacy of children born in both valid and putative marriages (objectively invalid, though at least one party celebrated in good faith).


Legitimacy is only part of the consideration, and I would mention that first.

I agree that there’s a built in circularity to the notion here, and that can be confusing. When you think about it though, it’s a definitional thing. What do the words actually mean?

The primary meaning of “legitimate” is “lawful” or “according to the law.” In fact, the English translation of the code of canon law uses “legitimate” (or something very similar like “legitimately”) about 124 times. That primary meaning is just something that a law sanctions or approves.

So we would look to the law itself to discover if something is according to it or against it… A law itself would have to say whether someone’s status is legitimate (according to that law) or illegitimate (against that law). That gives the secondary or more specific meaning of the word as applied to the status of children. That’s only mentioned three or four times.

As to Church law, canon 1137 itself says that children conceived or born of a putative (i.e., thought to be valid but later discovered not to be) marriage are legitimate.

Church law does not really go much further. There are no particular effects, except to say that illegitimate children are rendered legitimate through the subsequent valid or putative marriage of their parents, or through a rescript of the Holy See. (c. 1139). But the condition does not impede the person from things like being ordained or holding Church office, etc.

By contrast, civil law usually attaches effects regarding inheritance, etc., but a civil attorney would be best suited to address that.

Now there is a second part to consider. Even in a putative marriage, people assume obligations and duties that arise from natural justice and civil law. These do not terminate by virtue of a decree of nullity. So if a marriage is found to be null, canon 1689 still says, “In the sentence the parties are to be advised of the moral and even civil obligations which they may have to each other and to their children as regards the support and education of the latter.”

And obviously, the children continue to possess all those rights associated with our basic human dignity as created by God and those which they may have as baptized members of the Christian faithful.

A little clarification, Ron,

If a marriage is declared null, it has no future status as a natural marriage either. There are only three possibilities here: Valid-natural, valid-sacramental, or just invalid.

Remember that a decree of nullity does not say that the sacrament never existed, but that canonical marriage itself did not exist, even though a civil one did. Since the sacrament cannot exist without a valid marriage (and two baptized parties), if the marriage is found null, the sacrament did not exist.


Not at all.
Are you even Catholic? Do you even know what an annulment declares?
Did you see my post where Canon Law is quoted?

Children born in a marriage that is declared null are legitimate.


To accept that you have to accept that a marriage did in fact take place and therefore the annulment isn’t legitimate. Either way it can’t be both, unless you want to toss logic out the window. You can’t have two teachings that contradict oen another and logic.


I have no personal interest in the topic, I have no children. I fail to see what is so difficult for you to understand - the Church does not see these children as illegitimate. Period.



Only if common sense and logic mean nothing to you…


Children born of a marriage that was presumed valid are legitimate whether the marriage was declared invalid by the Church or by the State – and yes there is such a thing as a court annulment and no it’s not just given in a case like Britney Spears’.

Some of the things that would be grounds for annulment in the Church are also grounds for annulment in civil law, mostly those that deal with fraud and inability to give consent. Most people resort to divorce rather than annulment because it’s much simpler.


Great I never said the Church did, go back and read what I wrote it’s very simple logic actually.



All you have done is INSULT rather rudely by using the term Bastard many children.:mad:
You have been shown that your assumption /logic is incorrect in regards to the Catholic Church, but you keep insisting that they are BASTARDS! :mad:
Yet after repeatedly being shown your are incorrect you still insist these children are bastards:mad: why? You are incorrect, plain and simple!
Do you get some joy calling children bastards?

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