Annulment and Divorce:
So what is the Difference?

"What GOD has joined together, let no man put asunder."
Matthew 19:6
Jesus Christ has said that those who are united in the eyes of GOD
are joined in matrimony until death do they part.
The legal dissolution of a marriage, a severance of the
marriage bond in a civil environment. The civil laws of our country
accept the premise that two married people can terminate their
marriage with the blessings of the state.

The Catholic Church teaches that if two baptized persons marry validly
in the eyes of GOD, neither they, nor the state, nor the Church itself
has the authority to dissolve that marriage. The key word here is validly.

Many people believe that an annulment is the Church's equivalent to a
civil divorce. This could not be further from the truth.

To make or declare a marriage is void or invalid.
An act of making or declaring a marriage as being void
or invalid.

The Church, however, can examine a marriage that has failed and then
determine if the marriage was lacking an essential quality for a
complete and valid union from the very beginning. This process can
take six months or more and is performed by a tribunal from the Diocese
in which the parties reside.

There are many valid reasons for the tribunal to grant an annulment.
Many have to do with the two parties involved, not openly revealing
to each other at the very beginning, their feelings on certain matters.
I will list only a few valid reasons for illustration here.

1. The primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children.
After the marriage one party says, "I do not want children."
2. Either or both parties are married to third parties.
3. One is homosexual and did not reveal this to the other.
4. One party has a criminal record and did not reveal it.

There are many more valid reasons for which an annulment may be
granted by the Church. I would advise the consultation of a Catholic
priest for more on this subject.

In summation:

A divorce breaks the civil bond of a marriage.

An annulment declares that the marriage was invalid from the beginning.
An annulment does not separate what GOD has joined. It merely
declares that what had been joined was not fully what GOD had intended.

Written by Bob Stanley, January 14, 1999.
Updated December 10, 2006

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