Approaching your Ex-Spouse for an Annulment
This is where it gets tricky; you desire an annulment*, but your ex tells you that it's "Catholic divorce," or that your children will be illegitimate! Painful and untrue words.
First, pray! Consider a novena (my favorite is Our Lady Undoer of Knots) to help till the spiritual soil for this conversation.
Examine your own conscience. Do you need to ask for forgiveness from your ex? Explain (charitably) your choices? Own your part in the dissolution of the marriage? Do you need to go to confession before this conversation takes place.
Third, be generous of heart. Although the marriage has ended, both of you should still be pursuing a journey of Faith. Perhaps you still need to parent together?
Divorce tends to be reactive, can you move the relationship to a positive place by being proactive?
Explain what an annulment is NOT!
It does not say that you were never legally married, nor does it make the children illegitimate. It is not a Catholic divorce.
Explain what an annulment is. The annulment process helps you explore the understanding you had of what makes a valid sacramental marriage at the time of your wedding. During the process an investigation of if you had enough information and/or ability to carry out those sacramental promises. It is an opportunity to look at what went wrong, ineffective patterns and it helps you begin to identify areas that need improvement in your relationships. I found it helpful to realize that we were not fully informed about what we needed to do (before marriage) in order to have a healthy, sacramental union. It allowed me to stop blaming myself and my ex and to move forward with new understanding and wisdom. It can be a very healing process.
Give it time. All the changes that go along with a divorce can be overwhelming. Be as gentle as you can in approaching the subject of annulment. Let your ex know that you are not saying that they did not matter or that your marriage wasn't important to you, rather you want both of you to move on in a positive way to a grace-filled future.
*Remember, not all divorced Catholics who apply for an annulment will be granted one. Discuss your specific situation with your priest.