The process of a marriage annulment through the Catholic church can be tedious and lengthy. Often times lasting over a year, there are a few distinct steps one should know before beginning the time consuming trial. First you must decide if a marriage annulment is indeed the logical course of action. If children or considerable assets are involved the difficulty of obtaining a marriage annulment increases dramatically. In order to streamline the decision making process one must understand what the grounds for annulment are.
If there is a direct violation of church law, the process should go relatively smoothly. If your vows were exchanged under false pretenses or neither of you wanted to enter into a life long commitment then a nullity of marriage can be granted. If a spouse never intended to have children and withheld that information a justifiable ground for annulment is achieved. Other permissible reasons include-intoxication at the time of consummation, incest, bigamy, underage marriage, marriage that didn’t take place at the Church, insanity, or infidelity. A marriage annulment will be accessible if any of these violations occur.
Once the ground for annulment has been established the process begins. To begin the procedure, the petitioner (individual who is filing for the marriage annulment) will contact his/her parish or Tribunal staff member. When the religious administrator hears your case he will present you with an application. Unlike a civil ceremony, the documentation needed to begin this application or petition is a baptismal certificate, current address of former spouse, a fee of around $100, and lastly a marriage certificate.
After the documents have been filed, the petitioner will have an interview (or write a letter) with the religious administrator conducting the procedure. The reasoning for this interview or letter is to lay out the grounds for the annulment and gather information regarding the couple. The questions will encompass factors such as: description of childhood and home life for both spouses, description of dating process, details about how the decision to get married was reached, descriptions of problems and subsequent solution methods during marriage, description of marital roles, and lastly description on how divorce was reached. After the interview the tribunal will contact both parties and reach a decision regarding the grounds for annulment.
If grounds for annulment are granted a witness list must be constructed by the petitioner before the formal trial begins. Witnesses include at least 2 people who were present during the time of consummation or who have a relationship with both parties. At the formal hearing both the witnesses and the petitioner will be questioned privately by the members of the tribunal. Once again, this is an information gathering procedure used by the tribunal to determine if a marriage annulment should be permitted given the situation.
When all of the information is gathered through background checks and questioning the testimony will be gathered and sent to the court members. During this time the petitioner nor respondent are present at the hearing. Representation will be given by an advocate and defender of the board (an individual who represents the actual marriage.) Once both sides present their case a judge will come to a decision and notify the petitioner and respondent within on average fourteen months. According to Church law, when the annulment is being reviewed, neither couple can remarry. If the decision is unfavorable, a petition or appeal process is available to either party. Like the trial itself neither husband nor wife will be present at the trial for appeal. The decision will be sent by the judge to an appeal court and they will preside over the case.
Marriage annulments, although a laborious process can be necessary for some marriages. A firm understanding of the intricacies involved in the annulment process can provide a form of relief during a stressful time.