A Brazilian justice has for the first time upheld a Vatican ruling to annul a marriage, with the former husband and wife to be considered single rather than divorced, judicial sources said Friday.

"It is the first time that the Superior Tribunal of Justice (Brazil's highest appeals court) has ratified a marriage annulment on the basis of the Catholic church's statute," a court spokesman said.

The decision was made on May 21 by the tribunal's president Felix Fischer but was not made public until now.

The husband and wife in the case are now considered "single" and not "divorced" as they would have been if the marriage annulment had been obtained through civil law, the spokesman said.

The court said the husband had accused his wife of incest with her three sons in the annulment request. It did not give the couple's names.

Lawyer Jose Eduardo Coelho Dias, who argued the case before the tribunal, explained that his client had turned to the Vatican in order to rebuild his life as a Catholic.

"He had already obtained a divorce after years of marriage but he wanted to erase the name of his wife from all registries, to protect his sons, " press reports quoted the lawyer as saying.

The wife lost all rights over her children, including custody and even visitation rights.