FAQs about annulments

Below are common questions about the annulment process in the Catholic Church:

The Church does not accept that divorce can sever the actual bond of a valid marriage. However, not every marital relationship meets the standard that Christ established for marriages.

For a marriage to be considered valid by the Catholic Church, it is required that:

  • The spouses are free to marry.
  • They are capable of giving their consent to marry.
  • They freely exchange their consent.
  • In consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another, and be open to children.
  • They intend the good of each other.
  • Their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized minister.

Yes, you are most welcome at Mass! Divorced Catholics who have not remarried, or who have remarried following an annulment, may receive the sacraments, including Holy Communion. Your Catholic faith is the very key to your healing after a divorce and is vital to living a life filled with promise, peace and joy. Our parishes are here to help you on your faith journey. You can also find lots of resources and inspiration at CatholicsComeHome.org.

In faithfulness to Jesus’ teaching, the Church believes that marriage is a lifelong bond (see Matthew 19:1-10), so unless one’s spouse has died, the Church requires the divorced Catholic to obtain a “declaration of nullity “before marrying someone else. That means the Church determines – through a tribunal process – if something essential was missing at the moment of consent, that is, the time of the wedding. If so, the Church can declare that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day.

Even if your marriage is not annulled after your divorce, please know that you are welcome in the Church and the Church is there to accompany and support you!

“We [bishops] understand the pain of those for whom divorce seemed the only recourse … We urge them to make frequent use of the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation… We encourage divorced persons who wish to marry in the Catholic Church to seek counsel about the options that exist to remedy their situation, including the suitability of a declaration of nullity when there is no longer any hope of reconciliation of the spouses.” — USCCB, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” 2009

Yes! You are not alone. Once you contact your local parish, you will be assigned an annulment advocate. This advocate is a well-trained volunteer who will assist you in filling out the application, writing your narrative or filling out a questionnaire, determining the grounds for dissolution and assembling witnesses. They will accompany you throughout the process and update you on the status of your case.

Find the list of parish annulment advocates here.

Yes. It is the party’s responsibility to tell potential witnesses that they will be contacted by the Tribunal and request their cooperation. Each witness is sent a questionnaire based on the grounds of the case. Testimony is to be given under oath and must signed before a Catholic priest, pastoral minister or notary public.

All information provided to the Tribunal is guarded by strict and sacred confidence. Interested parties (proposed spouse, relatives, etc.) should not inquire about the case, as no information will be supplied.

No. Each case is assessed independently and thoughtfully.

No. The Tribunal accepts cases or petitions for review only after the civil divorce process has been completed.

No date for a subsequent marriage is to be set until the case is decided by the Tribunal and all procedures completed. Keep in mind an appeal process is also available to both parties, and that could prolong the process of completing the case. If an annulment is granted, both parties then become free to marry in the Catholic Church.

The length of time involved varies from case to case and depends on many factors.

The Diocese of Charlotte charges no fee for processing a case, unless the work must be done outside ordinary avenues or if the Tribunal’s decision is appealed to a higher court.

Additional resources

Have other questions not listed here? Please contact a priest near you or your parish annulment advocate, or go to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

Have questions about Church teaching and divorce? Check out this information from the USCCB: www.foryourmarriage.org/divorce

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