It is heartbreaking when marriages fall apart. Catholic spouses may question what an annulment is and how it differs from a divorce.
An annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic Church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union. An annulment (or, more precisely, “a decree of nullity”) is not the equivalent of a “Catholic divorce” – Catholic divorce does not exist.
“…The Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed. In this case the contracting parties are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1629).
There is a common myth that causes much pain for divorced Catholics. Divorced Catholics often believe that the Church requires them to refrain from Holy Communion. In reality, a divorced Catholic is just as welcome as any other adult Catholic to receive Holy Communion. It is only when a divorced Catholic contracts a civil second marriage (without having obtained a decree of nullity) that the Church asks him or her to ordinarily refrain from receiving Holy Communion.
If you want to learn more about this topic, here is a list of frequently asked questions. http://www.foryourmarriage.org/catholic-marriage/church-teachings/annulments/
The Tribunal of the Diocese of Saginaw may be contacted at 989-797-6623. There is no fee charged by the Diocese of Saginaw for the annulment process.