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Sister Maria Goretti of the Sacred Heart

Administrator, Saturday 14 June 2014 - 08:40:07

ANNULMENTS: Five "how's" and "why's"

1. What's the first step?

The first step in the annulment process is contacting your parish priest. He will give you a set of papers to be completed. After completion of the paper work, the petitioner for annulment returns the papers to the parish priest for review. If all is in order, the parish priest then sends the paper work to the Diocesan Tribunal office. Priests who work in the Tribunal then take over the process, reviewing the marriage case in question. The process usually takes a little over one year.

2. What does the paper work involve?

The documents to be retrieved are the following:
  • Recent baptismal records (issued within six months) of BOTH parties (petitioner and ex-spouse) to be obtained from the Church of baptism. The baptismal certificates are to have all notations posted on the back (records of First Communion, Confirmation, and/or previous marriages).
  • A copy of the marriage license.
  • A copy of the final decree of divorce.
  • Other information needed is the address and phone number of BOTH parties AND a detailed written explanation of the marriage in question. This written explanation follows a particular outline and is to be typed. The names and addresses of at least three witnesses (who knew the married couple at the time of marriage) are also to be submitted. These witnesses are asked to give written testimony (answering a questionnaire) at a later period in the annulment process.

3. How much does an annulment cost?

The diocesan fee is $365, with a $100 down payment at the time one submits the completed paper work. This fee is used to cover the extensive paper work and the salaries of those involved in the clerical process. No one is denied an annulment because he/she cannot afford the process. However, considering the costly procedure of civil divorce, the diocesan fee is very minimal and reasonable.

4. Just what is an annulment?

In an attempt to answer a difficult question in as simple and brief a way as possible, an annulment is a decree by the Church stating that a marriage did not exist sacramentally. The key word here is sacramentally. An annulment states that at the time of marriage, one or both parties was not capable of honestly making and fulfilling the marriage vows, thus making the vows null and void. The Church does not make statements regarding the civil and legal aspect of the marriage. On paper, according to civil law, there was indeed a "marriage" by all secular standards (which makes children legal/legitimate), but the "marriage" was never a valid sacrament. Thus, the Church would not recognize it.

It is also important to remember that there is really no such thing as "illegitimacy" in the eyes of God. We are all born as God's beloved and eternal children regardless of our civil status.

5. Isn't an annulment just "divorce" the Catholic way?

No, the Church does not recognize divorce. An annulment does not dissolve a marriage. It simply means that in the eyes of the Church there never was a sacramental marriage in the first place. If two people separate and divorce, in the eyes of the Church, these two people remain married; they just do not live together. Separated and divorced Catholics, contrary to common belief, may still participate actively in the Church and, if living a chaste life, may receive Holy Communion and the other sacraments.

However, if a separated and divorced Catholic REMARRIES without a decree of nullity for a first marriage, then this Catholic would be considered living in an "adulterous union" and, under normal circumstances, would be unable to participate fully in the
sacramental life of the Church (such as receiving Holy Communion).

To begin the annulment process in the Diocese of Lafayette, contact your local parish priest.


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