Need an annulment? Pope Francis just made it easier

For Catholic New Yorkers contemplating divorce, getting an annulment from the church just got a whole lot easier, thanks to Pope Francis.

The populist Pope has reached out to disenfranchised Catholics and former Catholics on many fronts, and this appears to be his latest overture to his flock. In the past, Catholics who sought annulments in order to continue receiving the sacraments and remarry were subjected to expensive, protracted ecclesiastical processes. Many simply gave up and left the church entirely or were relegated to marginalized roles.

In 2012, United States Catholics were granted approximately 25,000 annulments. Pope Francis acknowledged that getting an annulment can present too great a burden and financial drain for the average civilly-divorced Catholic.

The primary changes will be:

-- Enabling bishops to fast-track annulments in cases of cheating spouses or abuse

-- Doing away with a secondary clerical review before the nullification of marriages

-- Eliminating fees other than nominal administrative fees, and shortening the process to about 45 days

These papal reforms were announced in dual "motu proprio" documents, which is Latin for "by (the Pope's) own initiative." At the beginning of the Pope's "Year of Mercy," beginning on December 8, these reforms become canon law in the Catholic Church.

While this news will certainly be well-received by many divorcing Catholics, the church's changes have no effect on the laws of New York regarding divorce, child custody or support. To be fully informed about one's rights and responsibilities during and after a divorce proceeding, it is best to consult a legal expert in the field of family law.

Source: CNN, "Pope Francis makes annulment of marriages cheaper and easier," Delia Gallagher and Daniel Burke, Sep. 08, 2015

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