For those going through an annulment, I'd like to present the experiences that my wife and I went through. My wife is Canadian and I am from the USA, so we went through a similar sort of experience as far as paperwork, interviews, etc with immigration for her to come the USA. We had found a really great website to track our experiences with others for that. Sadly, there is nothing like that for annulments.
Before I start the story, I do not advocate doing things as we did! Don't think that what we did is an easy way out. We did things the way we did them because of the immigration issues.
My wife and I met back in 2005 on-line. Within 6 months we met up -- she was at one end of Canada, British Columbia on the west coast, and me in Pennsylvania. We had such a bond of love between us that she and I got engaged and she moved to Ontario in the spring of 2006. I spent 18 months commuting 230 miles each way on weekends to see her. When we got engaged she told me of her intention to become a Catholic. She was baptised Anglican and attended an Alliance church. At Easter 2007 she became Catholic. I am a cradle Catholic.
I should mention that we are both divorced. She was not married in the Catholic Church. I was not either. While her marriage followed the rite of her faith, mine did not. I was married in a field by a Unitarian Minister. I did not seek dispensation from form.
Soon after, we began the immigration process. Love conquers all, but it doesn't pay the gas, electric, and rent, and she was suffering on less than $900 a month. Without me providing food and a tank of gas she'd never have been able to make it.
This process was such that she had to immigrate as my fiance and get married within 90 days of her entry. A day before US Thanksgiving 2007 she entered the USA. We got married in a civil ceremony two weeks later.
Immigration cost close to $2,000. When you add moving costs, it was closer to $2,500. Needless to say the well was pretty dry. By summer though, the money tree began sprouting again to pay for the annulments.
Being married civilly that left us a very difficult choice. Again: I do not advocate doing things as we did! This is a dangerous way of operating and the occasion for sin is great! We vowed to take St Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary and the model of the Holy Family as our model. We vowed to live a marriage of celibacy during this time.
We began the annulment journey in June 2008 here in our local diocese, Pittsburgh PA. Mine was summary due to my error of not seeking dispensation. It was granted swiftly and inexpensively, $50. Her's was another matter. The next few months were emotionally stressful as she had to recall a lot of hurtful/ abusive things done by her ex-husband. She'd write and then be in tears. I was there always with a hug and kiss and tender love. After a few interviews, just prior to her calling of witnesses, it was determined that as her marriage was performed in the geographical area of the Archdiocese of Vancouver BC, her case had to be stopped here and resumed there. This was in the autumn of 2008.
In January 2009, we paid them Can$800. Things started moving then. In the spring my wife made a taped testimony here in Pittsburgh. Once again, she had to recount the abuse.
As this was going on, her witnesses were interviewed in BC -- this involved two additional dioceses. Contacting her ex was another matter. He refused all mail from the archdiocese. It was sent certified mail and he refused to accept any of it. Attempts to reach him through his parents or by phone met with a similar fate.
There is good reason as to why every attempt must be made to contact him. He is an atheist having renounced all faith right after the minister married them back in the 70s. BUT, should the miracle of his acceptance of Christ and the Catholic Church occur, he too would be afforded the benefit of the annulment as requested by my wife.
The tribunal prepared the case in June. In September it was read, and in November a judgment of nullity was declared. This is about 1 year after we began proceedings in BC, and 16 months after the whole process began in Pittsburgh.
All Canadian cases are sent to the national tribunal in Ottawa Ontario for review. This is for procedural errors, adherence to canon law, as well as agreement with the grounds decided by the hearing diocese. We are in that phase now. In mid November, we sent an additional Can$350 to Vancouver.
We believe that this will be quick. 3 months perhaps. As soon as it is done, we will have a proper marriage in the church.
1) Again, I do not advocate doing things as we did. Our circumstance was unique. We consulted with our pastor and he cautioned us about what we did, but stated that it was on our souls if we strayed. We recognise the grave occasion for sin as well as scandal against the church and the sanctity of marriage. We thank God for the courage and strength he gave us in maintaining celibacy.
2) The process is long, but it does work. There will be times when you feel like nothing is happening, but just as marriage is serious stuff, so too is the work that the church must do through to determine nullity.
3) It does a cost a bit. Consider the cost of attorneys in divorce. In a sense, while not to say annulments are Catholic divorce, you are in the hands of a court of canon law making a legal judgments and the advocate is effectively your attorney. You're not buying an annulment as some charge. If you can't afford it, work with the diocese.
4) Your ex may be the biggest jerk in the world, but is still afforded the benefit of the judgment. It may be conditional, as should your ex decide to remarry in the Church they may be required to prove that their intentions are genuine.
5) Love each other. Lots of bad stuff comes up. There are a lot of tears. Pray the rosary together
I hope our story helps
May Christ bless all of you!