Types of Marriage Nullity in Catholicism

Types of Marriage Nullity in Catholicism

In some cases and occasions there is a need to apply the marriage annulment, within the relationship of the spouses who have been united for a certain time by the figure of marriage in Catholicism. Here we will show the most common causes to apply such a decision.

marriage annulment

It is treated as its name indicates in the phase of invalidating any marriage due to the fact that in its celebration there are specific vices or defects that make it incapable of taking effect. The annulment of marriage creates the situation that it does not exist and has not been able to create any effect.

It is very different from divorce because it ends a marriage that is valid due to the will of one or both spouses.

Canon law

The Ecclesiastical Courts are the ones that have the competence to declare the annulment of an ecclesiastical marriage. There is the existence of a Court of First Instance for each Diocese, having a minimum Chamber that is represented by three Judges or by several, everything will depend on the number of matters that are in charge.

The Court of Appeal in the Archdiocese and in the end it is usually before the Court of the Spanish Rota, which has its headquarters in Madrid or the Roman Rota. As for the process of canonical nullity, it is originally carried out by means of a lawsuit that is filed by a lawyer and a solicitor before the headquarters of the Ecclesiastical Court where one of the contracting parties resides.

The people who participate in the Court must be Law Graduates. The process is carried out by three Judges, where one of the three participates as a speaker. It is developed through a contradictory process between the parties, the plaintiff (if requested by both spouses) and the other party is the Defender of the bond or Ecclesiastical Prosecutor.

From the result of such a process, an Act is drawn up by the acting Notary, which is equivalent to the Court Clerk.

Reform of the canonical process

On December 8, 2015, Pope Francis through the motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus; made a reform to the canonical process of declaration of nullity, where the requirement of sentences to be able to have them was eliminated, so that currently if it is not requested by any of the parties, nullity can be achieved.

Likewise, the deadlines have been reduced and thus the delay of the nullity processes is avoided and allows the processing and the ruling in relation to one year.

In the same way, the Pope in the same document insists that the authority in this regard is the responsibility of each Diocese and that the Ecclesiastical Court has vicarious power, therefore in cases where nullity is imminent and both parties agree, the case it passes directly to the Bishop, being able to pass sentence after listening to the reasons of the Defender of the bond and the help of the adviser in legal matters.

Such a procedure is known as a brief process before the Bishop and should not exceed a few months. Likewise, the gratuitous meaning of the process is insisted on and, therefore, the reduction and elimination of judicial fees in terms of ecclesiastical courts has been created.

Causes of marriage annulment

In relation to this point we can say that they are grouped into several points that we will determine below:

  • Ability

They are made up under the name of impediments. Some of these may be waived, so that if the marriage is requested, it will be validated.

Age less than 18 years: it is essential that it be from 16 years for men and 14 for women.

Having been the object of a previous and subsistent marriage.

Possess a nexus in a straight line without degree limitation or in a collateral line with up to the fourth degree of consanguinity. The third and fourth degrees in the collateral line are usually essential.

Public honesty: maintenance of the sentimental relationship with first-degree relatives by affinity of the deceased spouse or maintenance of concubinage with a person other than the other contracting party as soon as the marriage is celebrated. The attempt against the life of the previous spouse of the other contracting party. This becomes essential.

Holy Orders: being ordained as a priest, bishop, deacon. It becomes necessary but the beneficiary of the dispensation will leave the priesthood.

Public and perpetual vows of chastity in a religious institute: it becomes indispensable, leaving the institute. When the vows are usually temporary, it will suffice that they are not renewed at the end of the due period.

Mixed religion: this happens in marriages between Catholic and Christian who are correctly baptized in another Church that has the characteristics of Orthodox Catholic, Anglican or Evangelical. This is usually essential.

Disparity of cults: this usually happens within Catholic and non-baptized marriages. In the former case, the Catholic spouse is committed to baptizing the spouse and children, educating them in the Catholic faith and beliefs.

Antecedent and perpetual impotence: it can be absolute or relative.

  • Consent

Absence of the use of reason.

Possess a serious defect in terms of discretion of judgment.

Inability to accept the vital obligations of marriage for reasons of a psychological nature: there has been a great jurisprudential process, mentioning all the behaviors that prevent the normal development of marriage, in terms of: sexual identity disorders, inability to have children, problems in in terms of personality, alcoholism, drug addiction and gambling.

Error in the identity of the person or of a quality directly and mainly intended. The quality must be of a personal nature and affect married life, rejecting those of a physical nature or those of a patrimonial nature.

Imminent error before the unity, the indissolubility or the sacramental dignity of marriage.

Fiction partially or totally due to the exclusion of a vital property or an important element of the marriage, such as: unity, fidelity, indissolubility and openness to life in marriage.

  • Condition

Violence, threat or serious fear.

Abduction in order to obtain the other contracting party.

Intent caused in order to obtain consent.

  • Form

Celebration without the presence of the local ordinary or the parish priest or a delegate.

Marriage that is celebrated by means of powers that are null.

Absence of one or both witnesses.


All civil or ecclesiastical marriages can be annulled if there are some of the causes provided for in the law, which are attached to capacity, consent and form.

As for the sentences of the ecclesiastical courts, these will be homologated by a civil Judge, in which at that moment they have civil effects and are registered in the Civil Registry. The contracting party whose marriage has been declared null, will have a single marital status and the children will have the status of putative children.

The civil marriage annulment is obtained through the demand imposed by means of a lawyer and the Attorney before the Court of the domicile of one of the two people involved or contracting parties. It is predisposed to appeal in accordance with the Law of Civil Procedure.

Both norms, both the canonical and the civil, are usually totally similar in relation to the causes; the canonical one is more thorough in terms of development, analogous assumptions can be drawn in both regulations. Unlike the canonical regulates in a special way the impediments related to the marriage of priests and religious.


The first Civil Code that was issued in America was in 1803 in Louisiana, which belonged to the United States of America due to the cession of Napoleonic France. This happened in the year 1808, and the promulgated legal body showed the name of Digeste de la loi civile.

This is why, related to the terms invalidity of marriage and nullity of marriage, both have a relevant connotation due to the fact that in the previous codes of 1852 and 1936 this item or section was referred to with the phrase nullity of marriage but not invalidity, this term was assigned in the year 1984, since it is thought to be a more accurate criterion since the topic can be broadened and classified as null and void.


It is usually customary in terms of the opinion of people who think that nullity is interesting only from the ecclesiastical vision in order to remarry in the Church. Honestly, the differentiation between annulment and divorce has interesting consequences, since with the former the marriage has never existed, unlike with the latter, it is dissolved.

The nullity of the marriage counteracts the payment of compensation-type pensions and applies typical rules to the liquidation of the regime before the economic in the marriage. In the event that one of the spouses is declared to have malicious intent in the annulment process, the obligation of compensation can be imposed on the other spouse if there has been marital cohabitation.

In the case of canonical marriage, the impossibility of remarrying in the Church, temporarily or permanently. This when it comes to individuals with mental or discernment problems, these two forms are cautious when processing the subsequent marriage file.

Who can request the annulment of marriage?

Marriage annulment can be requested by the spouses themselves, the Public Prosecutor or any person who has direct purposes in the case.

When there is serious fear or coercion, in this case only the spouse who suffers the damage may request annulment. This action expires if it is the case that the spouses remain in common life after one year after the error or cause of fear and coercion has ended.

When the cause is the annulment of age, as long as the contracting party is a minor, only their parents, guardians, guardians or the Public Prosecutor may carry out the annulment action. The contracting party may request the annulment of the marriage provided that she is of legal age and before the year of common life that exists.

In another order of ideas, the judicial process that is applied in cases of marriage annulment, is very similar to that of separation or divorce, and as in the latter, it is usually mandatory to comply with the part of the lawyer and solicitor, and the one requesting The procedure may request the adoption of preventive measures.

Without consent

It can occur in non-emancipated minors.

By people who are married.

It can also occur in relatives in the straight line by consanguinity or collaterals up to the third degree, relatives in the straight line by adoption.

For the contracting parties who have been blamed as authors of the death of the previous spouse or of any of them.

Without the intervention of the judge, the mayor or official before whom it will be held or in the absence of the presence of witnesses.

When it is made by mistake on the identity of the person of the other contracting party, this is a different person, or in terms of the personal qualities that according to the importance have defined the will of which is claiming the vice of nullity to contract marriage.

The marriage has been effected out of grave fear or duress.

The Ministry of Justice may authorize or waive the celebration of marriages in minors but who are over 14 years of age, which happens between collateral relatives and by those prosecuted for the death of the other spouse.

Civil marriage annulment; the canonical has a number of its own characteristics that we must treat individually. This implies the non-validation of the marriage due to the existence of a defect or essential problem in terms of its celebration.

The marriage that is declared null is considered non-existent or that it never existed, except for what concerns the spouse who has contracted it in good faith in relation to the children.

Regarding this relationship, we intend the announcement of causes of nullity as a purely type to guide; We do not intend to analyze each of them in detail.

In order for us to determine if the marriage is null or invalid, a judicial process will be carried out before the judge with jurisdiction in it, to which relevant evidence must be added and in which all the procedural parties must participate, such as the promoter of justice and the defender of the cause.

It will not be possible, therefore, the claim that through a few lines, the reader himself draws his own final conclusions regarding a certain situation.

Ecclesiastical marriage annulment

If people marry in the Church and seek to do so again on another occasion with another spouse, they must apply for an ecclesiastical marriage annulment.

Ways to break up the marriage

Before we go into the causes of ecclesiastical marriage annulment, we consider it important that the reader be aware of the ways to end the marriage in terms of civil and ecclesiastical.

As for the civil order, there are two ways: civil marriage annulment and divorce.

Civil marriage annulment

This apart from undoing the marriage, is the non-existence of it from the moment of the celebration.

The marriage will be null, whatever the manner of celebration, whether civil or ecclesiastical and therefore non-existent:

It is carried out without the approval of one of the interested parties or spouses.

When it is carried out between non-emancipated minors.

When performed between married people.

When between relatives with a straight line of consanguinity or adoption or collaterals by consanguinity up to the third degree.

When there is an absence of the judge, the mayor or the official who is going to celebrate the act, or without the presence of witnesses.

When it is made by mistake regarding the identity or personal aptitudes of the other spouse.

The one that is carried out by coercion or due to the existence of serious fear.


As is known by most years ago to end marriages, the separation of both spouses was necessary beforehand. Marital separation tries to suspend the common life of both spouses, in relation to personal relationships and marriage. In the event that the separation is civil, another marriage cannot be celebrated again.

In order to dissolve or break the bond of marriage, divorce is necessary since separation will not be enough. By means of divorce, the marital relationship is usually dissolved definitively and a new civil marriage can be re-celebrated. At present, a divorce can be requested directly, without prior separation of the marriage. As for the Spanish law, it is not required to justify the causes of the divorce.

To ask for a divorce, it will suffice that three months have passed since the marriage festival. These ways of dissolving marriage do not allow another ecclesiastical marriage to be performed again, it is only allowed by civil.

Ecclesiastical marriage annulment

If the desire is to marry again in the Church, it is necessary that we obtain the ecclesiastical annulment.

What are the causes of ecclesiastical marriage annulment?

Among the reasons for requesting an ecclesiastical marriage annulment, we can mention the following:

Defect in the way it is celebrated.

When there are impediments.

The vice of consent.

Causes of nullity due to the existence of impediments

Age: when marriage occurs between men under 16 years of age and women under 14 years of age, it will be null. In this case, a concession may be requested.

Difference of cults: the individual who is baptized cannot celebrate marriage with another who is not in the same condition. A concession can be requested if the person is of the Catholic religion and the other practices a different religion.

Holy order and the public and perpetual vow of chastity in a religious institute: in these two cases, permission is usually received from the Apostolic See.

Crimes committed to marry

Abduction: the process of marriage cannot take place between a man or a woman who suffers abduction.

Crime: there will be no marriage between a man or a woman that ends the life of the other spouse.

No concession can be requested.

Kinship: in this case they cannot marry:

Parents and children among themselves, nor siblings, whether by blood or by adoption.

The uncles with nephews, nor the cousins ​​between them.

related relatives. That is, the man may not marry his sister-in-law or mother-in-law (sister or mother of his deceased woman).

In the previous case, a waiver is not allowed, in the remaining two it is.

Causes of nullity due to invalidity of consent

Inability to give consent due to:

Absence of reason.

Serious error of discretion of judgment.

That there are causes of a psychic nature.

That the vital properties of marriage are not known.

Dolo caused to obtain consent.

Marriage that is performed by condition of a future and uncertain situation.

Dangerous violence or fear.


Through divorce or civil annulment it is allowed to contract a new civil marriage.

As for the annulment of an ecclesiastical marriage, the celebration of a new canonical marriage is permitted.

Who can apply for an ecclesiastical marriage annulment?

As for this, either of the two spouses can do it, being sure of the nullity of the marriage, so they can request it.

It is not necessary that there be the agreement between both or the acceptance of the other spouse.

The fact that they have children will not prevent the annulment of the ecclesiastical marriage from being requested.

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