So What Does Annulment Mean Anyway…

What is a Catholic Church annulment?

The Catholic Church presumes, on the wedding day, that a valid marriage contract in church law was entered into by the bride and the groom. This contract is life long. Even though a couple may get a divorce from the State, they are still married in the eyes of the Church.

An annulment investigation examines the couple’s relationship in detail to determine if there was some essential element missing in their relationship from the beginning. If there was an essential element missing, it means the couple did not have the kind of marital link that binds them together for life. The Church then issues a nullity of marriage (an annulment) and both are free to remarry in the Catholic Church.

Criteria for an annulment?

Any divorced person–Catholic or non-Catholic–can request an annulment. More often than not, individuals seek an annulment so they can remarry in the Catholic Church. Other times individuals may request an annulment so the Church will no longer consider them married to their ex-spouse.

Is my ex-spouse involved?

Yes, the Church requires that your former spouse be notified that the annulment process has begun so as to offer him/her the opportunity to make a response.

All you have to do is let the Church know the present whereabouts of your ex-spouse. You are not required to take any further action regarding him or her.

Your ex-spouse will be sent a letter explaining the annulment process was initiated. Your ex-spouse does not have to agree to the annulment for it to be accepted by the church. He/she can also choose not to participate in the process and it will still go forward.

What is a Tribunal?

The tribunal is the official name given to a church court. Anyone, whether baptized or not, can file for annulment with the tribunal. The Church has its own trial law that carefully regulates how cases proceed. The divorced spouse who petitions the tribunal for an annulment is called the “petitioner,” [alternatively the plaintiff], while the divorced spouse who responds to the annulment request is called the “respondent.”

Who are the Witnesses?

You are asked to contact two or more people who are willing to help with your case. A valuable witness is someone who knew you and your ex-spouse before and after the wedding day. Family members including but not limited to; parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins often provide very useful material to the annulment process. Childhood or school friends can also elaborate on the parties’ developmental years, which is also beneficial information to the study. Individuals who knew you during the courtship and married life are also useful witnesses.

How much time does it take?

There is no way to put a time line on the process as each case varies. However, it normally takes anywhere from 10 to 16 months. The time to process an annulment depends on a variety of factors. For instance, if the petitioner does not complete the necessary document gathering in a timely fashion, the annulment can be delayed.

How much will the Church charge to process an annulment request?

The cost varies depending on the individual tribunal. In many instances, the cost can be paid as monthly installments. Frequently, if you cannot pay the full amount, arrangements can be made through the church to defray some of the expense. Additionally, no case is turned down due to a person’s inability to pay the fee.