An annulment (decree of nullity) is a declaration by the Tribunal that at the time of a wedding a permanent bond of marriage, as understood by the Church, did not come into existence because some essential element for a valid marriage was lacking. An annulment does not deny that there was a civilly recognised wedding or erase the relationship that existed. In Australia an annulment has no effect in civil law. The children of the marriage are still legitimate. However, if a union is declared null, the Church considers the parties free of the marriage bond and able to contract marriage in the Catholic Church.
How does an annulment differ from a divorce?
A divorce is a civil decree by which a marriage that existed has ended is now dissolved. An annulment, on the other hand, is not a dissolution. It is an official declaration by a Church Tribunal that at the beginning of the marriage, the time of consent, something essential was lacking that prevented a marriage bond as understood by the Church, from coming into existence.
What is the basis for an annulment?
In Catholic law it is presumed that on their wedding day a couple were free and had the capacity to marry. Therefore, the basis for an annulment is the finding by the Tribunal that one or both parties in fact lacked something essential to consent to marriage, as understood by the Catholic Church. The essential elements for valid consent concern the knowledge, intentions, freedom and capacity of a person to undertake the obligations of marriage. There are a range of grounds under which an annulment can be applied for. For example, if at the time of consent one of the parties was under extreme pressure to marry, never intended to have children or during the ceremony was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Tribunal personnel will be able to advice applicants if any grounds to challenge the validity of the marriage are suitable following an interview.
Can I re-marry in the Catholic Church after an annulment?
In practical terms, if a marriage is declared null, the Church considers the parties free of the marriage bond that would have otherwise arisen. The parties are then free to marry in the Catholic Church.
Annulment Procedures and Requirements