Everything you need to know about annulments

Mon, Sep 14th 2015 06:00 am

What is an annulment?

A church annulment, properly known as a "declaration of nullity," is a declaration by a church court that a marriage entered in good faith was lacking an essential element that the Church requires for the sacramental or spiritual bond of marriage.  Often when a marriage ends in divorce it turns out that there was an issue from the very beginning that prevented the couple from living out the obligations of marriage as set forth in the teachings of the Church.

Marriage must be freely entered into, with no deception, coercion or fear driving either party or both spouses must have the intention to enter a permanent, faithful union that is open to the possibility of children. In the Catholic Church, marriage is understood to be a community of life for a man and a woman, for their mutual interpersonal growth, and for the procreation and education of children. Each spouse must have the basic physical, emotional, and psychological ability to understand the intentions and meaning of marriage and to intend to fulfill them.

Who needs to petition for an annulment?

Anyone who has been previously married and divorced and now wishes to marry in the Catholic Church, or to have a current civil marriage recognized by the Church, must petition for a declaration of nullity. This includes non-Catholics seeking to marry a Catholic and those seeking to become part of the Catholic Church.

How long does it take the Diocese of Buffalo to process a petition for annulment?

The average time from the time the Tribunal receives a request to study the possible nullity of marriage to a conclusion is usually about one to one-and-one-half years.  However, this time frame may vary according to the circumstances and complexity of the case.

Does an annulment make the children illegitimate?

No. The Church has always taught that all life is a gift from God.  An annulment doesn't deny the existence of a relationship. A declaration of nullity means that a particular relationship did not fulfill the qualities of marriage as defined by the Catholic Church.   It does not mean that there was never any relationship.  Even if a declaration of nullity is granted it never negates parenthood nor its responsibilities, both parents should always make every effort to cooperate in loving and supporting their children in all circumstances. 

If someone's first marriage wasn't in the Catholic Church, is an annulment petition still necessary?

Yes, because the Catholic Church respects the validity of all marriages between a man and a woman, not just Catholic marriages.

What costs have been waived by the Diocese of Buffalo?

The Diocese of Buffalo has eliminated all fees that were incurred in the normal processing of an annulment case.  If however, one of the spouses chooses to appeal the decision through the Interdiocesan Tribunal - Province of New York, there may be fees due to that Tribunal.

What spiritual and emotional support does the Diocese of Buffalo offer to divorced and separated Catholics?

The Family Life Department of the Diocese of Buffalo offers a program called LINK aimed at assisting people to adjust to the fact of their divorce and at helping people reconstruct their lives in relationship to others. Information about such programs may be obtained from the Tribunal or Family Life Department. 

For more information, about the annulment process please contact the Tribunal at 716-847-8769 or tribunal@buffalodiocese.org.


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