The Annulment Process
Contact a priest or deacon (preferably on in your parish) and he will make an appointment to meet with you to complete an introductory form called "Application for Annulment." You will be asked to write a history of your courtship and marriage according to a set of questions.
The priest will forward this application and history to the Tribunal. You will be notified by the Tribunal of the receipt of these documents and you be asked to have a personal interview with a member of the Tribunal staff. The purpose of this interview is to help determine whether grounds of marriage nulllity exists in your petition.
If it is not possible to accept a case for a formal hearing, (e.g. because there are no apparent grounds acceptable in church law or no proofs to document the grounds) a detailed explanation will be given to the person who made the request for a study together with appropriate references for proper pastoral guidance and direction.
Are witnesses required?
Marriage in never a totally private relationship. It creates profound effects on the family, society and the church. Witnesses, then, are required by church law to assist the Tribunal in a deeper understanding of you, your spouse, your marriage and its failure. This testimony will be used as proof to document the grounds.
What about special witnesses?
Sometimes doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, priests, ministers, rabbis, etc. have been consulted before or during a marriage in order to assist a person or couple. If this is true, you will be asked to provide the complete names(s) and after you have signed a release, the professional(s) may provide us confidentially with information that may be of great value in the study of a marriage.
What About the Former Spouse?
After your interview, your former spouse will be notified by the Tribunal. He/she will be offered the opportunity to present his/her history of the marriage as well as to introduce any witnesses he/she chooses. It is the universal law of the Catholic Church which requires this.
It is important, therefore, for the Tribunal to have an accurate, current address of the former spouse. If this is not available, then the Tribunal must have his/her last known address together with the address of a family member through whom he/she may be contacted.
Please note that the Tribunal will contact the former spouse. It is suggested that you also inform your former spouse of your desire to petition for an annulment. It has been the experience of the Tribunal that in the greatest majority of cases, the former spouse is cooperative.
Who Reviews the Study Information?
Under church law, both the petitioner and former spouse could review each other's testimony in the course of this study. Witnesses may invoke the seal of confidentiality about their testimony. If they do so, then neither the petitioner nor the former spouse would have access to this testimony. No one else has any access to this material except the immediate members of the Tribunal staff assigned to the study of a marriage and they are bound to secrecy by an oath. Professional reports released to the Tribunal are never open to review by either party.
What is the Next Step?
When all the information that is available has been gathered and all who are willing to cooperate have been heard, the parties are notified of their right to review the case at the Office of the Tribunal and to offer further proofs, if needed. It is not necessary to review the case.
A trained member of the Tribunal staff serves as Defender of the Bond to argue the validity of the marriage, if possible, and to guarantee your rights, the rights of your former spouse and the church.
The Chief Judge will formally hear your case and, after receiving all the material, will render a decision.
If either party or the Defender of the Bond is not in agreement with the decision, either affirmative or negative, the law provides for an appeal. The appellate court for Duluth is the Metropolitan Court of Appeal headquartered in St. Paul.
How Long Does the Entire Process Take?
Since each case is different, we cannot predict how long it will take to complete the study of each marriage. It depends, in part, upon the extent to which your former spouse cooperates, along with his or her witnesses and yours, in allowing access to information or offering insights into the history of this relationship. Here, however, you can be of help. Without going into the details of your petition, you can point out to at least your relatives and friends, whose names you are giving to the Tribunal as witnesses, that their prompt response to letters and contacts from the Tribunal is important – for it makes the work on your case easier.
Is Remarriage in the Catholic Church Allowed?
If an annulment is granted and there are no restrictions attached to it, the usual procedure of preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church may be started with the local parish priest.
If a marriage is declared invalid due to a specific cause, a second marriage obviously cannot be permitted until it has been demonstrated that the cause which invalidated the first marriage has been removed.
Please note that permission to remarry in the Catholic Church can in no way be guaranteed before the completion of the entire process of study. No date for a future marriage should be made before that time. The Tribunal cannot be responsible for arbitrary promises or guarantees made by any priest, religious or lay person.
Is there a Fee for Tribunal Services?
As must be expected, the Diocese incurs added expenses in operating the Tribunal. There are salaries to be paid and costs associated with any office. Consequently, the Bishop has asked every petitioner to help bear some of these expenses in the amount of $250.00. This can be done later in the process and in a way convenient to the petitioner. No one is ever denied a hearing who is unable to contribute.