The reason some of us get a divorce is to break that “forever,” wishing we could go back in time to never marry that person in the first place. I am writing this blog to share my story.
I went through a divorce. I separated and moved 2 states away in 1999. After experiencing a new and better life as a single mother, I realized that we didn’t need that person in our lives. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know I was already divorced officially in 2001 till after 2004.
I have reason to believe that the lawyers were paid to keep this a secret from me.
For 15 years, I lived in shame. I knew that breaking a vow I made was wrong, but why must I have to suffer “forever” with this guilt? Who will want to be with me? Who would want to be with a divorced mother with kids?
The weight of the conviction I carried was so heavy that it affected my relationship with potential mates and I struggled with fitting in with normal married friends. I also felt excommunicated from my church because my religion believes that marriage is an indissoluble union made by God. I was ashamed to even pray to God for what I did to myself and our children.
But eventually, time passed and I needed to forgive myself and, love myself so I could love my children without guilt or shame; even though it had been over a decade since my divorce. I prayed little by little and waited. And that prayer did get answered for me.
In 2013, I reunited with a childhood classmate who advised me to go back to our faith because God is always welcoming regardless of our sins. He also advised me to get an annulment. Gee, I thought “annulments are granted to marriages if they were less than 2 months.” But, I found out that is not the case.
What is an annulment?
An annulment, properly called a “decree of nullity,” is a finding by a Church tribunal that on the day vows were exchanged at least one essential element for a valid marriage was lacking. For example, one of the parties did not intend to be faithful to the other party or approached marriage as merely a temporary bond. A decree of nullity may also be considered on the grounds that one of the parties is incapable of entering into a valid marriage due to fear or coercion, a lack of judgment caused by mental illness or gross immaturity, a psychological disorder or the fact that one of the parties is still validly married to another party.
What is the difference between a divorce and an annulment?
Whereas a civil divorce is concerned with the end of a marriage, a decree of nullity is concerned with the beginning of a marriage. Simply because a separation or divorce has taken place does not mean a decree of nullity can be granted. Civil law grants divorce because the couple cannot or will not continue to remain together. A decree of nullity does not dissolve a marriage. It declares that a specific union, thought to be a marriage by all appearances, did not include, from the beginning, the proper intentions and/or capacities for a valid marriage according to Church teaching and thus was not fully valid.
That is the difference between divorce and annulment. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” -Matthew 19:6
And so I chose a new path. One that was going back to God. Because He has the power more so than any civil court or lawyer in this world. I prayed asking; “Father, you know what a real marriage is suppose to be. I know I was not in one. I want Your opinion and I ask that if You believe the marriage I was in was not a true marriage, then please support my decision and grant this annulment for me.”
After spending $600 and waiting 9 months and with the help of St. Luke’s Catholic Church and the Diocese of Scranton, God has granted me my annulment. It is a FREEDOM one cannot explain until they experience it for themselves. I had a 3rd child who was born into the marriage and who is NOT considered illegitimate. I still receive child support for my child. The only difference is the validity and peace of mind knowing that the marriage I was in was not a marriage in the eyes of the church.
And if I choose to marry in the Catholic Church, I am able to do so. I am now living free from my “divorce is forever jail cell”.
Getting an annulment was the best thing I have ever done. I only wish I’d known about it 15 years ago. In forms that ask me my relationship status, I say “single” and not “divorced.”
I am writing this blog because it is my hope to shed light on other divorced parents out there. Do not believe that “divorce is forever” because annulments will break that rule. Once your annulment is granted, you will feel that you simply dated this person and broke up with them- just like any other previous relationships you’ve had in the past.
Charlene lives in the Northeast with her 3 children ages 22, 19 and 12. The youngest born in 2001 is the biological daughter of the man she married in 1995, separated in 1999 and divorced in 2001.