Say that a couple was married despite an impediment, which is usually justification for annulment. Some examples of impediments include:

Now let's say that both married people do not wish to have their marriage annulled. Can a third party, such as their families, ask for an annulment?

1 Answer 1


Yes, it's possible, but Canon Law provides a specific method:

  1. The following are qualified to challenge a marriage:

    1. the spouses;

    2. the promoter of justice when nullity has already become public, if the convalidation of the marriage is not possible or expedient.


For a marriage to be challenged, the family must first prove the nullity in public (for example, criminal bigamy, or lack of consent, or prohibted consanguity) which would prove the marriage civilly invalid, and then present the promoter of justice with that evidence for him to petition the Marriage Tribunal for sacramental nullity.

The promoter of justice is "the person appointed in each diocese and in the higher tribunals of the Catholic Church whose responsibility it is to provide for the public good." The relevant tribunal will be able to identify the particular person in its case.

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    In case you would like to mention this: the "promotor of justice" is analogous to the "district attorney" or the "prosecutor" in the criminal justice system. The diocese appoints one whenever a really contentious case arises (usually in order to investigate grave ecclesiastical crimes). For marriages, the promotor of justice would only intervene in the most notorious cases; so this would never be the “normal” way to begin the process of declaration of nullity. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 7:10
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    @AthanasiusOfAlex Agreed, it wouldn't be normal, because normally one of the spouses starts the petition. Where the spouses don't want to, but someone else does, canon law only provides that way -- and my three examples probably would be notorious. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 8:55
  • So to clarify, the family can't directly ask for an annulment, but they could ask for a promoter of justice to do it on their behalf? Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 2:30
  • Yes but. And it's a big but. As I understand it from the canon and @Athanasius' comment, the nullity of the marriage must already have been proved publicly before going to the tribunal's promoter of justice. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 7:05
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    @Thunderforge If this is a real situation for you, then the opinion of a couple of random bods on the internet (however knowledgeable or apparently knowledgeable) should be no substitute for actually consulting a real-life canon lawyer. It becomes a pastoral advice question, and we don't give pastoral advice. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 7:07

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