Was my marriage ever valid and do I need an annulment?

I married a non-catholic women about 5 years ago. It was not a Catholic wedding, in fact the ceremony took place in a court house. About a year later things fell apart rather quickly and bitterly. We were seperated and then divorced soon after.

After the divorce I went to talk to a priest about an annulment, he told me that because I was never married by a Catholic priest the marriage never actually happened so there was no need to file for one.

I’m wondering though was the priest correct or should I file for an annulment anyway?

As a Catholic when you married 5 years ago you were required to observe the canonical form of the celebration of marriage (cf. Code of Canon Law, 1117) - or to be dispensed from this requirement - for your marriage to be valid. Therefore, since you married outside the Church without permission, your marriage was and is invalid. Unless you plan to attempt marriage again, you need only go to confession to be reconciled to the Church.

If you plan to attempt marriage again the Church must first officially declare your prior marriage to be invalid (null). In such case, the annulment investigation is abbreviated (documentary process) and should take a relatively short period of time. Contact your pastor or your diocese’s marriage tribunal for more information.

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