How long does the process take?
It can vary from diocese to diocese, often taking 12 to 18 months or longer in some cases. The Diocesan Tribunal may be able to give you a more exact estimate.
How can a couple married for many years present a case?
The Tribunal process examines the events leading up to, and at the time of, the wedding ceremony, in an effort to determine whether what was required for a valid marriage was ever brought about. The length of common life is not proof of validity but a long marriage does provide evidence that a couple had some capacity for a life-long commitment. It does not prove or disprove the existence of a valid marriage bond.
If a marriage is declared null, does it mean that the marriage never existed?
No. It means it was not valid according to Church law. A declaration of nullity does not deny that a relationship existed. It simply states that the relationship was missing something that the Church requires for marriage.
If a marriage is annulled, are the children considered illegitimate?
No. A declaration of nullity has no effect on the legitimacy of children, since the child’s mother and father were presumed to be married at the time that the child was born. Legitimacy depends on civil law.
I do not plan to re-marry. Why should I present a marriage case?
Some people find that simply writing out their testimony helps them to understand what went wrong and why. They gain insights into themselves. Others say that the process allowed them to tell their whole story for the first time to someone who was willing to listen. Many find that the process helped them to let go of their former relationship, heal their hurts, and move on with their lives. A person cannot know today if they might want to marry in the future when crucial witnesses may be deceased or their own memories may have dimmed.
Why does the Catholic Church require an intended spouse, who is divorced but not Catholic, to obtain an annulment before marrying in the Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church respects all marriages and presumes that they are valid. Thus, for example, it considers the marriages of two Protestant, Jewish, or even non-believing persons to be binding for life. The Church requires a declaration of nullity to establish that an essential element was missing in that previous union preventing it from being a valid marriage.
My fiancé and I want to marry in the Catholic Church. He has been married before and has applied for an annulment. When can we set a date for our wedding?
You should not set a date until the annulment has been finalized. First, his petition may not be granted. Second, even if the petition is granted, there may be unexpected delays in the process. Many pastors will not allow the couple to set a date until the petition is officially approved.
How much does it cost?
Fees associated with the process vary within the U.S. Most Tribunals charge between $200 and $1,000 for a formal case depending on how much the diocese subsidizes the work of the Tribunal. Fees are typically payable over time, and may be reduced or even waived in cases of financial difficulty. Other expenses may be incurred when consultation with medical, psychological, or other experts is needed.