One of the concerns we hear time and again is that people fear the annulment process will take years before a decision is reached. Don’t let that hearsay hold you back from going through the annulment process — for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s simply not true! The Catholic annulment process doesn’t have a set timeline, but it’s really not as long as most people think. Here’s what you need to know:
Getting a Catholic Annulment
Unlike the civil divorce process, there isn’t a set amount of time you have to wait between beginning annulment proceedings and getting an answer. The Catholic annulment process is an investigation rather than strictly defined legal proceedings, so the time it takes will vary from one annulment investigation to the next. The process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, on average. The length of the annulment investigation process will primarily depend on how much information you can provide up front.
The Catholic annulment process is, as we said, an investigation. The group of Church judges that form your tribunal will be looking to see whether all of the necessary elements of a sacramental marriage were present at the moment vows were said. To do this, you will need to provide a thorough account of your relationship and marriage — don’t worry, there is guidance for the details you’ll want to provide. In addition, you will also be asked to provide witness testimony from family and friends who bore witness to your relationship and marriage. If you can provide witnesses who know both you and your spouse, those will be the most helpful accounts, but testimony from people who are primarily familiar with just one of you will also be helpful.
How Long An Annulment Takes
Once the Catholic annulment process has been initiated, you can receive an answer in a handful of weeks, or it may take a few months. The first bridge to cross is gathering all of your testimony information and waiting for the tribunal to decide whether there is grounds for an annulment investigation. If there is not, you will receive word fairly quickly. In these cases, you could petition again, but you would have to present new details or witnesses, which makes this harder to do. It’s why we suggest gathering as much information up front as possible.
If there is enough information to suggest that one of the necessary elements of a sacramental marriage was missing, the annulment investigation will commence in earnest. From this point, the process can take several weeks or months; it will depend on whether the tribunal needs more details, and how easily they can contact you, your spouse, and other witnesses. From this point, the Church tribunal will do their due diligence in looking into your request and will reach a decision as quickly as possible while also giving it an appropriate amount of diligent attention.