How does the marriage annulment process work?


How does the marriage annulment process work? Is there some work of tribunal that investigates things? What is the procedure? Just curious.


@acanonlawyer may be able to explain…?


It’s going to look a little different depending on the situation, but it generally starts with the priest or advocate at the local parish. The case would be take to the diocesan tribunal office. Forms are filled out and investigating is done. :slight_smile:


Your Diocese Website will provide specifics for you:


The procedure itself, strictly speaking, begins with a Petitioner submitting a petition to a particular tribunal. At the tribunal, the petition would be reviewed by the person in charge, the judicial vicar, and, probably, the defender of the bond (the person who is tasked with defending the validity of the marriage under examination). The J.V. decides whether or not to admit the petition. If it is admitted, the other Party (the Respondent) is “cited”, which means made aware of the petition and invited to take part in the process. After that, the J.V. assigns the case to a Judge (or Judges) as well as all the others who will take part in the process (defender of the bond–who would be the same as the person who reviewed the petition–auditors–people who gather testimony–assessors–people who assist the Judge(s) in evaluating the evidence/law–expert–usually a psychologist/psychiatrist–notaries–like a secretary but also one who authenticates documents). At the same time, the J.V. determines the “grounds”, which addresses the basic claim(s) of the Petitioner: is this marriage invalid because of _______________? After that, witnesses are cited, pertinent testimony is gathered. Then, when the evidence is complete, the Petitioner and Respondent are given the opportunity to review the evidence and add/rebut/amplify/etc. Then, the case is concluded. The defender of the bond writes “observations” which point out what can reasonably be argued as supporting the validity of the marriage. Advocates for the Parties submit their own briefs. Then the Judge (or Judges) is to make a decision in which he answers the question asked in the “grounds.” He writes a Sentence. An appeal is possible, either by a Party or the Defender. That’s another process.

There can be some aspects here or there that vary from place to place, especially in terms of what might precede the submission of the petition.



very slowly


Talk to your Church administration staff. The process may have changed since Pope Francis, however, my experience they will give you a bunch of paper work and maybe more and request others (spouse and others who had knowledge at the time of the marriage in question) fill out paper work. There are two paths if I understand…depending on circumstances. It can take a year or so. Pray and trust in God.


Wanted to point out: most of this goes on behind the scenes. My husband has a declaration of nullity from his first marriage. The only parts he was actively involved in were the initial application and the provision of testimony. He received a letter indicating that the tribunal had accepted the case and then another letter stating that the testimony was in, a decree had been issued, and he had 2 weeks to review the testimony. He then got another letter stating that an affirmative decision had been granted and that the case was going to the second instance (this was when a second instance was still required). A few months later we got the final letter stating that the court of second instance had upheld the original decision and he could appeal to the Rota if he wanted (obviously not necessary given we had two affirmative decisions) and that he could make future marriage plans with his pastor.


I thought it was a nightmare and mine took two years. I had a lack of witnesses because I don’t air my dirty laundry to friends and family. It went to TWO COURTS which can disagree with each other First Instance and Second Instance Court. I almost left to be a Lutheran for the procedure seemed so ridiculous to me. I gave my testimony to the Head Tribunal priest and it took ONE HOUR; I have known people have written 40 to 50 pages to the Tribunal to answer the many many many PERSONAL questions about every aspect of your life and marriage.

I state this for a reality check that it’s not an easy process. You may feel healing after the process but I felt none . I spoke to a Canon attorney once and the rest was all handled by people I never met nor knew me at all

Just a thought so if you feel frustrated if you are considering pursing one that a full investigation for those that need one can be a tricky process.

God bless.


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