So what exactly is an annulment 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, right from the start, some essential element was missing in their relationship. If that fact can be established, it means the spouses did not have the kind of marital link that binds them together for life. The Church then issues a declaration of nullity (an annulment) and both are free to remarry in the Catholic Church.
Who can apply 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 request an annulment just 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 do not have to have anything to do with him or her.
Your ex-spouse will be sent a letter explaining the process that was initiated. Your ex-spouse does not have to agree to the annulment. 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 bring an annulment request to a 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,” [at times 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–parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins–often provide very useful material to the annulment study. Childhood or school friends can also elaborate on the parties’ developmental years, which is 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 many factors. For instance, if the petitioner does not complete the necessary document gathering in a timely fashion, the annulment is delayed.
How much will the Church charge to process an annulment request?
The cost varies from tribunal to tribunal. In many instances the cost can be paid in monthly installments. Frequently, if you cannot pay the full amount, arrangements can be made through the church to defray some of the expense. However please know that no case is turned down due to a person’s inability to pay the fee.