Separation & Divorce (Annulment)

Annulment of a Marriage in the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church understands marriage as a sacrament that images God's covenant with His people, a covenant of love and for a lifetime. Once a valid marriage covenant is made, it is a commitment for life to faithfulness and the good of the spouse, children and the community.

But for a marriage to be truly valid (with the Catholic understanding of covenant) both parties must be capable of such a commitment, fully aware and freely giving consent. Sometimes one of these conditions is not present and therefore something is wrong from the beginning, something is lacking. In such a case there never was a valid marriage bond from the beginning. One or both parties may not have been capable of full consent for a number of personal reasons. Or there may have been undue external pressure.

An annulment process is aimed at establishing that the marriage bond was invalid from the very beginning. Something was missing from the marriage commitment, something was lacking with the consent or one or both of the parties lacked capability for unconditional commitment to a community of love.

QUESTION: When should I apply for the annulment?
Answer: You can only apply after your divorce is final. Go to a parish near you and ask for the application form. A priest, deacon or pastoral staff person will assist you with the process. You do not need to be a member of the parish in order to apply for an annulment. However, you should apply within the diocese where you live, or where you were married.

QUESTION: What do annulments cost?
Answer: There no cost to the petitioner in the Diocese of Joliet. The Diocesan Stewardship Appeal funds are used to support the diocesan Tribunal. Other dioceses may have fees, but parishes may offer assistance.

QUESTION: How long will it take?
Answer: Approx. 12 - 18 months in the Diocese of Joliet. In some dioceses it may take longer, especially if the witnesses don't return the questionnaires promptly. The case can be held up indefinitely if not enough witness testimonies are returned.

QUESTION: Will they contact my ex-spouse?
Answer: Yes. But the ex-spouse cannot prevent an annulment. The decision is based on facts only.

QUESTION: Will my children be illegitimate if my marriage is annulled?
Answer: NO! This is a grave misconception. The marital status of the parents does not affect the status of the children. All children are created in God's image and have equal status in the church. Neither civil law nor church law considers the children of an annulled marriage illegitimate. Nor does the annulment imply that the children were not the fruit of a genuine human love. Annulment is simply a decision on the circumstances surrounding a marriage that could prevent that marriage from being a sacramental marriage.

QUESTION: My spouse is applying for an annulment. How does that affect me?
Answer: Actually, you'll reap benefits without having to do the paperwork. Once the Decree of Annulment is granted, it is granted to both spouses. With the decree that your ex-spouse applied for, you too can marry again in a Catholic Church -- without having to do all that paperwork. Just cooperate with the process by responding when necessary to the letters you receive. I say "when necessary" because sometimes they just offer you another "opportunity for more input" and if you don't respond the process continues after the waiting period with or without further input.

Next Steps…
If you would like to begin the Annulment Process here at Notre Dame Parish please contact Dr. Doug Muir 630-601-1764 or dmuir@notredameparish.org.