As an attorney I am often asked “What’s the difference between an annulment in court and a Catholic annulment? Aren’t they the same thing?” No, they are not. An annulment in court takes place before a judge in Family Court and a Catholic annulment takes place before a tribunal named by the Catholic Church.
An annulment is a legal procedure in the courts that declares a marriage null and void. In contrast, an annulment in the Catholic Church is a declaration by a church tribunal that a marriage originally thought to be valid according to church law, is actually not a binding union. The procedures for both are very different. If you obtain an annulment in Family Court, it is not a recognized annulment by the Catholic Church. If you receive an annulment in the Catholic Church, it is not recognized by the Courts of New Jersey or any other state, for that matter.
In New Jersey, the courts recognize the following causes for an annulment:
- Either of the parties has another wife, husband, partner in a civil union couple or domestic partner living at the time of a second or other marriage.
- The parties are within the degrees prohibited by law. If any such marriage shall not have been annulled during the lifetime of the parties the validity thereof shall not be inquired into after the death of either party.
- The parties, or either of them, were at the time of marriage physically and incurably impotent, provided the party making the application shall have been ignorant of such impotency or incapability at the time of the marriage, and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.
- The parties, or either of them, lacked capacity to marry due to want of understanding because of mental condition, or the influence of intoxicants, drugs, or similar agents; or where there was a lack of mutual assent to the marital relationship; duress; or fraud as to the essentials of marriage; and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.
- The demand for such a judgment is by the wife or husband who was under the age of 18 years at the time of the marriage, unless such marriage be confirmed by her or him after arriving at such age.
- Allowable under the general equity jurisdiction of the Superior Court. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1
The Catholic Church allows the following reasons for annulment:
- A lack of due discretion
- Defective consent
- Psychic incapacity
- Informal cases (prior bond and defect of form) [This is used in cases of bigamy and Catholics marrying outside the Catholic Church.] www.americancatholic.org
Contact the Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates
As you can see the reasons for a Catholic annulment are much broader than the criteria under the law for an annulment in the State of New Jersey. For more information regarding the annulment process in the state of New Jersey contact the law office of Lyons & Associates.
At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.
Written by: Chris Ann Wright, Esq.