Church’s rules on annulment will not impact Massachusetts law

A Massachusetts divorce ends the legal relationship between two married people. From a family court’s standpoint, those two newly single individuals can remarry whomever they choose as soon as their prior marriage’s divorce is finalized. However, individuals who practice certain religions can face some additional hurdles to remarrying in their chosen churches if they have prior divorces in their personal histories.

For this reason some people choose to pursue annulments instead of divorces. An annulment not only ends a legal relationship between two people but also effectively erases that marriage from existence. It is important to note, however, that a legal annulment is different than a religious annulment.

For example, the Roman Catholic Church requires that a previously married person secure a religious annulment before he or she may remarry in the church. In the past this was a rather long and arduous process that could take years to complete. The head of the church, Pope Francis, recently announced that soon Catholics who hope to remarry in the church can seek annulments in a more streamlined fashion.

Family law professionals who practice in Massachusetts have noted that the Pope’s newannulment process will have no bearing on Massachusetts’s laws for legal annulments. In Massachusetts, couples must prove that a marriage was flawed from its inception in order to secure an annulment instead of a divorce. Flaws that could support legal annulments include but are not limited to situations where one person was forced or coerced to marry the other or where one of the parties was underage at the time of the marriage.

When Massachusetts couples choose to end their marriages they have options for which legal processes they want to pursue. Divorce is a common way to end a marriage, but annulment is also possible. Individuals who pursue annulment should recognize that legal and religious annulments are different and serve different purposes for those who desire to remarry.

Source:, “Full Court Press: Legal annulment poses a challenge,” Bob McGovern, Sept. 9, 2015

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