Legal and Catholic Annulment Processes
DISCLAIMER: This isn’t about my current marriage, of which I have been a happy participant for about 5 years now. This blog entry was requested by a few of my readers when they found out that my current husband isn’t my first. And that I had to undergo two types of annulment proceedings in order to be completely free of the first one. Then people at the Relationship Matters comments section tagged me to ask how. Instead of replying to every comment, might as well blog about it.
Actually, my baptismal parish priest (Alabang is under the Diocese of Parañaque) was shocked at how fast MY process was, and he said that my case is the first successful Catholic annulment he has ever encountered. So shocked that they didn’t know what to do when I showed them my letter of successful marital dissolution from the Archdiocese of Lipa. They even asked if they could photocopy the 5-paged ruling (along with the letter from Lipa) so that they can see how it’s done. I was happy to oblige.
The parish priest was so curious about the process (do note that canon lawyer priests are much more knowledgeable about this than most parish priests, for this reason I have read the canon laws) so he asked me for the steps, which I’m now sharing here, with my husband’s permission, because we both think it could help people.
FAIR WARNING: This process was so harrowing and traumatizing that it took me 14 years (+ lots of convincing from my current husband + tons of medical intervention) to remarry.
First Marriage Location: Caleruega, Nasugbu, Batangas
Legal Jurisdictions: Las Piñas/City of Manila/Nasugbu
Catholic Jurisdiction: Archdiocese of Lipa
- Read up on the family code. This will help you understand what it is you’re going to subject yourself to.
- Find a good lawyer. I hired Guzman, Tañedo & Acain Law Offices, but take note that this was in 2006, so I don’t know if the information on the link I provided is still active.
- Find a good psychologist/psychiatrist.
- Collect all evidence of your dysfunctional marriage. In my case, I relied on all my LiveJournal entries + some physical evidence from my ex’s previous employers. I printed these out and handed them to my psychologist for processing.
3.1. For women: if your marriage was not consummated because you have a physical issue, get an OBGYN to examine you, and request a report for legal use. There’s this type of disorder that’s common to women who grew up in hyperreligious communities, and I suspect a lot of Filipino women have this.
3.2. For cheating spouses: Scour all socmed photos for evidence. (This was what a couple of my friends did, along with screenshots of lovey-dovey comments.)
- The psychologist will create a report that you’ll be submitting to your lawyer.
- The lawyer will file the case based on the medical reports, and all other evidence you have. You can file the case in your home city, your ex’s home city, or the area where the ceremony took place. I chose my home city.
- You will be interviewed by the fiscal. You’ll also need to summon some of your mutual friends for separate interviews. Please listen carefully to your lawyer’s instructions so that you’ll know what to say to the fiscal.
- You’ll need to appear in court. You also have to pick witnesses who will deliver testimonies. This is the ugliest part of the whole ordeal because this is a very public place. Complete strangers who also have pending cases for the day will be listening in on the most brutal and intimate parts of your marriage because they have no choice but to sit there until their case’s turn.
- Wait for the results via your lawyer.
- If you receive favorable results, don’t forget to file this with the Philippine Statistics Authority. I didn’t have to because my ex remarried first. All I needed to do to get remarried was order a copy of my CENOMAR. Both my CENOMAR and my previous marriage certificate have annotations indicating that the marriage had been dissolved.
My case details:
Year of marriage: 2003
Length of marriage: Less than 1 year
Year annulment filed: 2006
Year annulment granted: 2007, received written ruling in 2008
Total Cost: I had to sell the website and domain that had been my additional bread and butter (because game devs in 2005 earned peanuts) + my Dad’s money. If I’m going to count for inflation now, it’ll be about more than half a million pesos.
Catholic Annulment Steps:
This was actually a bit trickier because I emailed both the Archdiocese of Manila and Caleruega. A canon lawyer from the Archdiocese of Manila replied to me a few months after my email, but I never received a follow-up. Caleruega, on the other hand, had been super helpful and pointed me to the right direction. In hindsight, I am truly thankful that my first wedding happened out of town, because the Archdiocese of Lipa was very efficient.
- Read up on the Catholic canon law. This will help you understand the spiritual nature of your marriage and what foundational cracks it had that would be the basis for it to be null and void.
- Make sure that you have copies of both YOUR and YOUR ex-spouse’s baptismal certificates, as well as your PSA and Catholic marriage certificates. If legally annulled, the PSA marriage certificate will indicate it. Unfortunately, St. Francis Xavier (Caleruega’s parish) lost a lot of documents in a flood/storm, but they thankfully had a copy of our Catholic marriage certificate.
- Being legally annulled helps a great deal, because the court findings will be included in the Catholic Tribunal report.
- Contact the Diocese/Archdiocese where your matrimonial church belongs to. Was really lucky that the Archdiocese of Lipa replied to emails. You will be asked to come over, along with the documents I mentioned in Step 1. Best also to write a summary of what transpired (they have guide questions for this).
- You will be interviewed so that they will know whether your reasons for filing the annulment are valid. DO NOTE that the Catholic Church is very strict about the grounds for dissolution, which is why your knowledge of canon law will be tremendously helpful.
- Once the interviewer deems that you have a good case, s/he will forward it to the Catholic Tribunal. This means that your case has been filed.
- You and your witnesses will be interviewed separately by members of the Tribunal.
- Wait for the results. Mine were LBC’d, with a receipt that was sent via email.
- If you receive favorable results, you will be instructed to return to your baptismal parish to update the state of your baptismal records. On your baptismal certificate, there should be an annotation that your marriage has been dissolved, and the parish priest must sign a document that states that your record has been updated. You’ll be giving this document back to the Archdiocese/Diocese.
My case details:
Year Catholic annulment filed: 2017
Year Catholic annulment granted: 2020
Total Cost: About 31K
To be honest, I really appreciated how respectful the Archdiocese of Lipa had been throughout the entire process. The interviews were private, and their questions were carefully worded. They also asked about my future plans. I told them that I was already legally remarried (in the same year I filed the Catholic annulment), and that we’re planning, because of parental requests, to undergo Catholic validation. Best part about this is that they are constantly in contact, they’d call and do follow-ups regarding the process, and even still assist with our convalidation requirements. This is why my husband and I decided it would be best to do the convalidation under the Archdiocese of Lipa.
What amazed my baptismal parish priest was how efficiently this was handled. Remember: I got my results during the height of the pandemic. While everyone was having a hard time with working-from-home, here’s an Archdiocese that utilized the internet and online bank transfers long before the national quarantine took place.
Anyway, the results are case to case basis. Mine was kinda unique (think Britney Spears’ first marriage), so I am not surprised that my baptismal parish priest was wide-eyed when he saw how fast it was dissolved on both counts.