Catholic Corner

Question: Do declaration of nullity render children illegitimate?

Answer: No. When a marriage of parents is declared null by the Church, many people are confused about its impact upon the legitimacy of the children. In fact, a judicial sentence that declares the nullity of a marriage does not affect the legitimacy of children born of that union. Any statement or belief to the contrary is simply wrong.

Tragically, it is a common misconception that a declaration of nullity renders children illegitimate in the eyes of the faith community. The laws of the Catholic Church clearly states that this is not the case.

Legitimacy is one of the first issues addressed to parties who are involved in tribunal procedures regarding marriage. The misconception is so pervasive that it needs to be corrected. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for spouses who have obtained a civil divorce to continue ex-spousal hostilities in the postdivorce situation. These hostilities can surface in the parental relationship, and clearly the children suffer. There are few things more heart wrenching to tribunal officials than to discover that a child has been told by a parent that the Church is going to render him or her "illegitimate" through the granting of a declaration of nullity. Informed parents who make such a statement have allowed anger at another adult to triumph over the well-being of the child.

The Church promotes the dignity of children in many arenas, including its legal structures. It is imperative to state clearly and unambiguously that children born of a marriage that has been declared null remain legitimate. There is no room for misconceptions

From Annulment, The Wedding That Was by Rev. Michael Smith Foster
Available from Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Blvd., Mahwah, New Jersey 07430

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