What is an Annulment?
An annulment, or Declaration of Nullity, is a statement by the Catholic Church that it has been established with human certainty that the marriage in question was not a true and binding one according to the Church’s understanding of marriage. Even though there was a wedding ceremony, something stood in the way, which, according to divine or ecclesiastical law, prevented a valid union from coming into being.
How does the Annulment process work?
An attempt is made to study the events surrounding the marriage, the courtship, as well as the family background of both parties to the marriage. In some cases, a psychological profile or medical records may be requested.
If preliminary evaluation of your completed questionnaire suggests further investigation, the Tribunal will assist in contacting witnesses, gathering documents, reports, etc. A serious attempt must always be made to interview the Respondent (your former spouse) concerning the questions and hear his or her account. The Tribunal judge will determine the importance of any refusal to cooperate.
After all of this material is gathered the case will be reviewed. If it appears to have merit, you may submit a formal petition. A formal hearing will be held at the Tribunal to accept the petition. If it is necessary for you to clarify previous information, you may be asked to attend. After the hearing, the members of the Tribunal submit written summaries before the judge’s decision. Church law requires that the decision be reviewed by a panel of judges.
How long does the process take?
Many cases are being handled simultaneously. Each must be judged on its own merits. Therefore, there is no timeframe that can be given as a general norm. Nonetheless, no date should be set for a new marriage or reception into the church until the final decision has been given in writing. Sometimes the Tribunal will insist on special preparation or counseling before remarriage. Until this requirement is satisfied, people in these circumstances would be restricted from remarriage in the Catholic Church. The purpose of such a restriction is not to punish one or both of the parties, but to enable the parties to enter a life-giving marriage.
What is my role and what are my rights?
To initiate the process various documents are necessary:
Copy of Baptismal Certificates of yourself and your former spouse.
Copy of the Marriage Certificate from the Church where the ceremony took place.
Copy of the Civil Marriage license.
Copy of the Final Divorce Decree.
Completed Preliminary Petition.
Completed Self - Testimony of the Petitioner.
All other forms will be compiled in the office with the Advocate. You have a right to present your viewpoint and have it heard by the Tribunal. You have a right to be kept informed of the proceedings of this case. As in any court, we make every effort to safeguard your right to privacy and your right to a defense. Both you and your ex-spouse enjoy these same rights in this process.
Should the occasion arise that a request for review be made, you would be notified and be given an opportunity to state your concerns. Your advocate is the best point of contact and your representative before the Tribunal.
Any questions based on your rights and how to exercise your rights please do not hesitate to make contact with your advocate.Should you take exception to the Tribunal’s handing of this case at any point in the process, you have a right to make known your objections. Please inform your advocate and he/she will instruct you in making these objections known to the Judicial Vicar.
Who would make a good witness?
The only witnesses who are helpful to the case are those who are knowledgeable and willing to cooperate. Please list people who knew you and your former spouse or families at the time of your courtship. Family members are acceptable and oftentimes valuable witnesses. Feel free to contact witnesses before listing them, to ask if they would be willing to cooperate.
Do not discuss the case with them at any point of the process. Do not provide them with details of your own answers to the questionnaire or try to “refresh” their memory. Evidence of collusion will hurt your case.
What effect does an annulment have on the Children?
Children born of an apparently valid marriage are always considered legitimate. Their status is not affected in any way by a Catholic Church annulment.
What expenses are involved?
Each marriage case costs the Tribunal a considerable amount in operational costs. The fees requested vary according to the type of case presented. While you are not expected to pay for the actual costs to process your case, you are requested to make an effort to help defray some of the expenses.
A formal petition, which is the standard request, a fee of $600 is requested. You may request that your advocate presents the case with a $200 minimum deposit at the filing of the case. The remainder is then due prior to the final judgment unless an agreement is reached with the Tribunal.
Although we hope you make every effort to help defray part of the costs of your case, if unable to do so prior to the final judgment, note that it will not affect the processing or outcome of the case in any way! Please also note that these fees may change at the discretion of the Tribunal.
How can I find out about the progress of this case?
Both the Tribunal and your advocate are interested in gathering the information and reaching a final answer as quickly as possible. Each case is given careful attention without any discrimination. The best point of contact and liaison between you and the Tribunal is your advocate. He or she will represent you and always have your best interest at heart.