What if my first marriage cannot be annulled?

I am currently in RCIA and have begun the process of having my first marriage anulled. We divorced in 1996 and have both been remarried. In filling out the paperwork, I am suspicious that my first marriage may not be invalid. What now?? What do I do about my current marriage? Help!

First of all, don’t panic until you know for certain. I was first married in 1979, divorced in 1993 with a son. I remarried in 1999 and filed for annulment in 2016. It was approved and I entered the church in 2017.
If it is disapproved, you’ll need to research how to do an appeal. I know of one case that went to a different diocese, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Not sure if you’re supposed to, but you can do your own research when the time comes.
Don’t panic.


Thanks for the words of encouragement! I am remaining prayerful and trying not to panic.:slight_smile:


You will not like this answer but if your prior marriage is found to be valid then your prior marriage is valid. This will have a huge impact on your current life. You will have some decisions to make.

Having said that, please wait until you talk to your advocate and submit the paperwork. If you are being asked to submit the paperwork without the help of an advocate then call the tribunal to request one. An advocate is a person well trained in canon law regarding marriage issues. This person will have a better understanding of your situation and will be able to advise you going forward.


Have you spoken to your priest about the grounds on which you are requesting annulment, and whether he feels it meets church criterion?

The OP is in the process of pursuing an annulment. He has (or will be) assigned an advocate to help him through the process. This advocate is the appropriate person, at this point, for him to approach with his questions about his particular case.


Of course he isn’t getting an annulment without a priest…I was asking whether he has asked the priest these questions.

Why can the OP not petition the tribunal without a priest?

I am uncertain whether with this sentence you are saying the case at first instant was moved to another diocese or whether the appeal went to another diocese.

The Code of Canon Law is quite clear on which diocese has competence to hear a case. Therefore, in a specific case there can be a number of tribunals before which a particular case may be brought.

If an appeal is made, and one is perfectly entitled to appeal the tribunal’s decision, the case goes to another diocese which will be the designated appeal tribunal for the one that heard the case originally.

To the OP: Do not panic until you have something to panic over. I’m afraid patience is required and you will have to wait for the tribunal’s decision. i hope for your sake you are being advised by an advocate. If not you can choose one if you know one and have the means to pay for her/his services or you can ask the tribunal to assign you one.

If the decision is not the one you want wait until you get over the initial emotional reactions. Take a deep breath and ask your advocate where you go next. He/she will be in the best position to advise whether an appeal would be appropriate.

One step at a time.

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If I recall correctly, they were denied an annulment. They later moved to another diocese and tried again and it was approved. I don’t know details since this was mentioned to me in a conversation and I wasn’t involved. I just thought it was unusual.

Actually, he doesn’t need a priest. When I worked in a parish, I was the person submitting all the petitions for decrees of nullity – the pastor and other priests had nothing to do with it.
It’s not a requirement for a priest to be involved in the process.


Be not afraid. God wants you in full communion with His Church. Be patient, the process will happen. You have an advocate to walk with you through any bumps in the road. Trust.

In my Diocese the Bishop has made it a rule that the priests not act as advocates any more. His role is pastoral, the trained advocates do the work on petitions.

As you go through this challenge of unknowing, unite your struggle with the infinite merit of Christ on the cross for the salvation of the world. You can gain much merit during this time and be a force for good.
You can be a worker in Christ’s vineyard along with us today even though it seems you are in this grey zone. There is strength and hope there.
God bless.

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Cross one bridge at a time and know that Jesus is there to accompany you.

Seems ill-advised not to start the process by meeting with a priest…it was required when I got an annulment and it was very helpful.

Among other benefits, like having the process explained, it was very helpful to be able to talk to the priest about what went off the rails and how I could move forward. I recommend it.

Your experience was good. This does not mean that every Diocese has the same process in place, or even that every parish has the priests acting as advocates. I’d not want a person to be expecting their pastor to serve as their advocate then to be somehow disappointed when they find out their pastor does not fill that role.

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However the priest is the pastor of the parish and if a parishioner needs pastoral care, including having questions, the priest is the best person to approach. Because your diocese does not allow priests to act as advocates in no way means it is wrong for a priest to do so.

Exactly. Bishop wants the priests to stick to pastoral care.

As I said, not every Diocese has the same rules, our OP can go to his Diocese website and learn the rules for his location :slight_smile:

There’s nothing wrong with talking to a priest – it’s just not a canonical requirement. And they are sometimes not in the best position to explain the process, since they’re not always as familiar with it as a procurator/advocate.

I wouldn’t want someone to think that there was something being done incorrectly if a priest tells them to work with a lay person to process their nullity petition, nor that the lay person is somehow less qualified.

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