A declaration of nullity is a decision that is made by the Church, which acknowledges that a couple never established the sacred bond of marriage. This "declaration" can only be made after one of the parties in a former marriage requests it, and only after a detailed study of the marriage has been carried out. The process of declaring a marriage bond to be 'null' examines the intention and understanding of both people at the time of their wedding to see if the necessary elements of a full and true marriage were present (i.e., permanence, fidelity, the ability for true companionship and love of the spouses, and openness to generating and educating children).
The declaration of nullity process seeks to determine whether or not there was anything that prevented these elements from being present in the relationship, despite the fact that both individuals may have entered the marriage with the best of intentions. Marriages rarely fail because of ill will or malice. It could happen that one or both spouses were unable to create the quality of relationship necessary to establish this sacred bond. If the Church declares that a prior bond of marriage was not properly established, the parties are considered free to celebrate a new marriage in the church. A declaration of nullity is a religious decision that does not have any civil effect on the relationship or legitimacy of any children born of the union.