The Catholic Church believes that the joining of a man and a woman in matrimony is a sacred act. When this act takes place between two baptized Christians, it is a sacrament. If neither or only one of the persons is baptized, then the marriage is not a sacramental marriage, but is recognized as a sacred bond. An annulment looks at whether or not a sacrament has taken place. When a marriage is declared to be ?null?, it doesn?t mean that a civil marriage didn?t take place, but rather that a sacrament didn?t take place.
The law of the Church is not meant to be any sort of barrier, but rather to keep us true to our belief that a validly established marriage is binding for life, that all marriage is brought about by an act of consent ("I do") between a man and a woman capable of giving and receiving that consent, and that Catholics are bound to exchange that consent in the context of the Church.
Some commonly asked questions are answered below:
No. Divorce in and of itself is not a sin. Divorced Catholics who have not remarried remain in good standing with the Church.
Again, no. The Church is looking at the marriage to see if a sacrament took place. A declaration of nullity is strictly a religious matter and does not affect the civil facts of the marriage. The Church is evaluating the spousal relationship exclusively. If a marriage was entered into in good faith, that is to say that the couple anticipated a healthy life-long marriage, the good faith of the couple provided enough of a union to satisfy the notion of children being born within the benefit of marriage. This fact is written into the Church?s teaching and law.
How long a case takes varies, but the Tribunal stipulates that, if you are planning to remarry, you should not set a date until the annulment process is complete.