DECLARATION OF NULLITY
Declaration of Nullity
Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand
A Declaration of Nullity (sometimes referred to as an 'annulment') is a decision rendered by a Marriage Tribunal in the Catholic Church, acknowledging that the sacred bond of marriage was never established between a couple.
After receiving the request of one of the parties in a former marriage, and only after a detailed study of the marriage has been carried out, might a Declaration of Nullity be issued.
Who needs a Declaration of Nullity
Any person, regardless of their baptismal status, who seeks to marry in the Catholic Church,
but has been previously married, must have a Declaration of Nullity from a Church Tribunal
for every prior union where the spouse of that union is still living.
In addition, if a person wishes to be baptised or received into the Catholic Church and is in an invalid marriage (e.g., a second marriage contracted during the life of the first spouse), a Declaration of Nullity is necessary before baptism or reception.
Finally, some people who petition for a Declaration of Nullity are motivated only by a desire to seek peace. Those who seek to heal the wound of a failed marriage often find comfort by submitting themselves to the intensive type of personal reflection that the process demands.
The process examines the intentions and understanding of both parties at the time of their wedding to see if the necessary elements for the sacred bond were present (e.g., permanence, fidelity, the ability for true companionship and love of the spouses, and an openness to the generation and education of children).
A formal Declaration of Nullity states that a relationship fell short of at least one of the elements seen as essential for a valid marriage according to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Declaration of Nullity process seeks to determine whether or not there was anything that prevented these elements from being present in the relationship, even though both individuals may have entered the marriage with the best of intentions. Marriages rarely fail because of ill will or malice present from the beginning, but rather, because one or both of the spouses were unable to create the relationship necessary for a valid marital union due to certain circumstances.
There are things that a declaration of nullity does not do:
It does not deny that a relationship existed which was recognized as a marriage in civil law.
It does not necessarily imply that the relationship was entered into with ill will or malice on the part of either party.
It does not say that children of such a union are illegitimate.
The only direct effect of a declaration of nullity is that the spouses may be free to marry in the Roman Catholic Church.