Catholic Church to Offer Free Church Annulment… But it is Different from Civil Annulment!

In September 2015, the Pope had given bishops of the Roman Catholic Church powers to judge cases of church annulments, with each diocese ideally having their own courts where such cases can be processed.

If things go well, the church annulment could be granted in as fast as 2 months or even less – surely, something that is quite amazing considering how annulment in the Philippines could drag to several years, even up to 6 years or more!

But wait! Before you rejoice that annulment has now become fast and, hopefully, free of charge in the Philippines, family lawyer Atty. Lorna Kapunan bursts the bubble.


While church annulment will soon be very easy to obtain, Kapunan clarified that this is different from civil annulment, meaning that even if the couple has been granted church annulment, because of the separation of the Church and the State, such will not be honored by the State; therefore, in the eyes of the civil law, the couple are still married.

In short, in all legal matters, the couple is still viewed as married unless the marriage is also declared as null and void by the civil court!

Civil Annulment in the Philippines

Divorce is not allowed in the Philippines – and the country is the only one in the world outside the Vatican to still refuse divorce. In fact, the country’s family code strengthens the marriage bond, calling it a “permanent union”; thus, according to Kapunan, divorce will never be allowed in the country unless the family code is significantly amended.

Now, while the Canon Law used as basis for church annulment was also the backbone of civil annulment, lawmakers in the Philippines had lumped together the long list of reasons given on the Canon Law as basis for annulment into “psychological incapacity” which Kapunan says is a generic term. Not only is this quite difficult to prove, it is also very expensive to prove since this could only be declared by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Not too many psychologists or psychiatrists are willing to testify in court; thus, asking prices could be as high as Php100,000 – Php150,000 ($2,170 – $3,250) for the psychologist or psychiatrist alone. This is not to mention the lawyer’s acceptance fee and appearance fees which depend on a number of factors but could also cost upwards from Php100,000!

This is the main reason why annulment is not just a very long process in the Philippines but also quite expensive!


Still, with church annulment made possible by the pope’s decree, a lot of couples could now experience the ‘freedom’ of being church annulled from their partners but they still must undergo civil annulment if they truly want real freedom without any legal strings attached.

Kapunan reveals, however, that the state is making things difficult for these couples; thus, if the family code is not amended, couples will continue to endure the long and very expensive process of civil annulment despite easily obtaining it from the church in just 2 months or less for a minimal price.

Sources: Pinoy Juander, ABS CBN News