From the beginning, God created man and woman and intended that marriage be a lifelong and exclusive partnership between a man and a woman for the procreation and education of children and for the giving and receiving of love. For that reason, the Church presumes that every marriage, including marriage between two non-Catholics, is presumed to be valid. For spouses who are baptized, marriage is also a Sacrament. This is in accordance with teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, the writings of St Paul and centuries of Christian tradition.
Since God taught from the beginning that marriage is a perpetual and exclusive partnership that is open to children, it follows that in some cases a party to a marriage may hold a different concept of marriage which is incompatible to the divine plan. In other cases, a party to the marriage may have been incapable of living marriage or may have entered marriage without having an impediment dispensed by the Church. If the Tribunal finds that a particular marriage suffered from such a radical defect, the original presumption of validity no longer holds. It can then declare the marriage null, which we prefer to call a “declaration of nullity” (as opposed to “annulment”). It must be found that the radical defect was present from the time of the wedding ceremony.
A declaration of nullity does not deny that a wedding took place or that a relationship existed, nor does it imply malice or moral fault. Quite simply, it is a statement by the Church that, from the very outset, the relationship lacked one of the elements which are essential to marriage. The Tribunal can hear cases in which at least one party is Catholic or is involved with a Catholic.
Further, there are absolutely no civil implications in this country to a declaration of nullity by the Church. It does not affect in any manner the legitimacy of children, property rights, inheritance rights, names, etc. It is simply a declaration from the Catholic Church that a particular union was, in fact, an invalid union. There is no attempt in the investigation to impute guilt or to punish persons.
If the declaration of nullity is needed please start by contacting Fr. Robert Wedow at the parish office at 303-828-4221. For more information, please see the Resources section at http://archden.org/tribunal/.