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Divorce law blog

Catholic annulments made easier

10/09/2015   By: Jane Booth

Pope Francis announced on 8 September 2015 that the process for obtaining an annulment within the Catholic church would be streamlined.

The Vatican set up a commission of church lawyers a year ago to look at reforms to the process for obtaining an annulment. The Catholic church does not recognise divorce. It teaches that marriage is forever. In order for married couples to separate, Catholics must have their marriage annulled by showing that it was flawed from the outset.

The reforms unveiled by the Pope allow access to procedures free of charge and fast track decisions as well as removing automatic appeals. They will take effect from 8 December 2015. Previously Catholics seeking an annulment needed approval from two Catholic church tribunals. The reforms will reduce this to one (although appeals will still be allowed in the relevant circumstances). The new procedure will also allow local bishops to grant annulments directly if both spouses request it. This means that an annulment could be granted in less than two months whereas under the previous procedure it took over 12 months and sometimes several years.

The new procedure should also reduce the cost for the couples of obtaining an annulment within the Catholic church. The previous procedure was lengthy and complex and experts were often required to guide the couple through the process.

Without an annulment, Catholics who divorce and re-marry are considered adulterers and are not allowed to receive communion. The changes will also affect non-Catholics who are divorced and wish to remarry a Catholic because non-Catholics need an annulment before validly marrying a Catholic in the church.

Obtaining an annulment from the Catholic church does not mean that a couple will be divorced in accordance with English law. The couple would still need to go through the divorce process. Indeed, most applications for an annulment from the Catholic church are not made until Decree Absolute has been pronounced.

If you would like to know more about the divorce process prior to obtaining an annulment from the Catholic church please contact one of our specialist family lawyers.

Jane Booth
Family Law Associate

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