Started Annulment Process - Frustrated already


#1

I came into the Church at Easter Vigil '13 after a dramatic conversion experience in the Fall of '12. Part of the reason I was drawn to the Church was because I was looking for the Truth about marriage and seeking spiritual resolution for the breakdown of my marriage. (My husband walked out 9 years ago and sought a no-fault divorce.)

Even after having entered the Church, I still struggled with discernment about whether or not to seek an annulment. I believe the grounds are clearly there, it’s just that coming to terms with not having a valid marriage has been difficult emotionally. There are also some spiritual reasons, but I digress. My big beef right now is with the process.

As a single mom with family far away, my financial situation is very dire. I don’t have the $50 for the filing fee, plus another $50 or so for certified marriage and divorce records, much less the $800 annulment fee. (Why isn’t a copy of a certified record sufficient?) There was NOTHING whatsoever included in the materials regarding having costs waived. I am also very concerned about my ex-husband retaliating against me for taking this step. Things between us are OK right now, and I don’t want to rock the boat, because we co-parent and he can really make my life miserable if he wants to, but the application says I have to get my questionnaire as well as certified records back within a month of receiving the initial packet. I am also concerned about the fallout if he has access to certain things that I assert in my case.

Is there any protection for spouses of abusive and/or narcissistic ex’s? How much of the record will he be able to examine if he does not choose to participate? How do I go about asking for forbearance of the administrative costs? I’m not really in a hurry to get an annulment, as I’m not planning to date any time soon, and I’m not sure I even want to get married again, but I’d like to get it done while my parents are still able to testify as they are the only people really have any knowledge/understanding of the relationship. (I am an only child and didn’t confide about my marriage to friends).

I kind of feel like this is so much more about jumping through hoops than protecting the sanctity of marriage. It doesn’t seem fair that, as a Protestant raised not even knowing that the Bible addressed marriage and divorce until I was going through it myself, and who married a non-believer who happened to be baptized, I have to go through the whole process when Catholics who married outside the Church are easily granted annulments for lack of form.

OK - rant over. I would really appreciate any advice or insight from those who have gone through the process. Honestly, for a lot of reasons, I’m questioning whether the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t have a better way of approaching the issue of divorce. Is this process really worth it?


#2

DAML,

Sorry you are going through this, I also went through the annulment process.

For the paying for the annulment talk to your Priest, I have been told that under certain circumstances the fee can be waived – even though it is not written.

For the filing of the papers your ex does not need to participate – the papers will be sent to him and he can choose to fill them out or not. Even though he can once yours are filed request a copy – but will have to drive to the Diocese to pick them up.

It helps to have a Priest that is understanding to your situation, explain to him about any abuse – mental issues, if they were know prior to marriage or not. The process is also there to help in the healing, you do not need to rush through all the questions – take your time while your parents fill out the witness forums and while you wait for the marriage / divorce papers (if you do not have a copy of them already). As for the questions, when I filled mine out my Priest reviewed it first and gave me advice on explaining more or tying one question into the next to show how things were and how they changed or came to light.

The process may seem overwhelming but you do not need to rush it. You can get the testimonies from your parents, fill out the questions – and review them a few times, get the documents you need when you can - and hold on to them, until you are ready.

May be see if there is a support group at your church, if not for the annulment process – for those that are divorced and entering the Church. Remember you are NOT alone, those at your Church are there for you, your Priest may also be understanding and support you (mine was) and you have us here on the forums for support.

I will pray that God grants you strength and peace, remain with Him in faith and you will be fine.

Winter


#3

My wife went through the annulment process when we first started dating. For her, it was pretty much an open-and-shut case (the ex-husband she sought a decree of nullity from married her under pretense - simply to receive a green card, and he had a second family!) Seriously. It was worth it for her, as she able to marry again in the Church. But… it took about 6 months for the diocese she was married in and the diocese she resided in to decide who should take the case. The diocese where she lived stated that she needed to start the process where she got married, and the diocese where she got married said she needed to start the process where she lived. They went back and forth with this for months, but I’m not going to mention which dioceses they were. Regardless, though, eventually she was able to start her process in the diocese where she lived. Afterwards, it took her about a year and a half to receive her decree of nullity. And seriously, not only did her ex-husband not respond, he couldn’t even be found. He could have actually been deceased, but without a death certificate, there was no proof one way or the other.

Seriously, though - it’s better to do this process when you’re still single, not dating or planning to date. That way, completion of the process isn’t dependent on your own emotions toward your new boyfriend.


#4

If there is a financial issue, usually something can be worked out between you and the parish. You will not be denied a declaration of nullity simply because you can’t afford it. Your XH may have access to some of the evidence that you submit, but: a) he will not get that access for several months (a decree will be written up giving you both access to the information) and b) I think sometimes they will redact some of the data (for example, I think they might redact some things if there’s evidence of abuse or something). You’d need to talk to the tribunal staff.

My DH went through the nullity trial process and received a declaration of nullity from his marriage to his first wife. You’re welcome to PM me if you’d like details. Their divorce was reasonably amicable, though, and his ex chose not to have any involvement in the nullity process.


#5

FWIW, you might not need an annulment depending on whether or not your marriage is sacramental. It’s a little complicated an I will attempt to simplify things. If your ex is not baptized you may be able to have the marriage dissolved (i.e., no annulment needed). If your ex is baptized and you were baptized as part of entering the Church, you may be able to apply to have the marriage dissolved on the basis it was not consummated as a sacramental marriage (which assumes you have not had sex after your baptism). If both of you were baptized and had sex while baptized ignore all of this; you need to apply for an annulment.

With regard to fees, speak to pastor about this. You will not be denied this process because you can’t afford it.


#6

Thank you. We are fairly amicable also. (When he is getting his way or wants something from me - lol). It’s just that, there are things (perceived insults, etc.) that will start a cycle of passive aggressive or obstinate behavior aimed at making life much more difficult. He also will sometimes use the kids to push my buttons. He may read way more into this than what it is. At the moment we are in a good patch. I’m not sure I want to upset the apple cart right now. I have too much else going on that needs my attention.


#7

Not applicable here. We were both validly baptized. But thanks for the thought!


#8

Hello DAML22,

There is an amazing book titled The Gift of Self. It is only $10 or so and can be found at Mary’s Advocates website. I am more than willing to send you a copy if you would like to PM me your parish address.

Remaining faithful to a spouse who has abandoned you is a difficult cross… as you have learned the past several years it sounds like.

But He will help carry it if we remain faithful to Him. It is the path to Heaven. There are a few Saints who we can read about traveling this one.

Yours in the Precious Blood,

Bryan


#9

Always, always speak with your tribunal and lay out your concerns and questions. They will give you answers. You can always speak to your advocate about your case as well. An advocate is your attorney. Make sure that your advocate is not the “unofficial” advocate that is just a parish priest who turns in paperwork but cannot write a brief on your behalf.


#10

Hi friend,

Please dont be discourage.
Trust in God, completly.
Read PSALM 27

Very briefly, my situation is far worst than yours. I’m not Catholic (and cannot be until I get the annulment clear) and other is, of different race and different RITE, only celebrating mass in their language. How do we get married?

Plus, it’s very complicated details I cant disclose much here. It’s still a mess and we both getting old, but we trust in JESUS. We will come out other end happy with whatsoever result He will give us. His will, not our.
No more fear.
Please try to find peace in the Lord.
Pax Christi

Ps. I just registered because I need to post this to encourage you although I have been guest here for a year.


#11

In addition of my previous post,
I completed RCIA, then found out 2 days before Easter Virgil that I had to wait till I get my annulment.
Now, how much I long to receive our Lord, but my sin prevented me.:frowning:


#12

In the bolded part, I just want to say that he will be allowed to read it, but he won’t be able to take the copy with him.


#13

Hi… This get a canon lawyer thing that I keep hearing on this forum annoys me. My understanding is that canon lawyers are pretty pricey (around $200/ hour). I don’t think that the OP, who mentioned that she is concerned about being able to pay the fee for the annulment itself, has extra money lying around to afford professional representation. A parish priest or deacon should be able to navigate on the process and act as a sufficient advocate. This isn’t a Supreme Court case.


#14

My understanding is that in our diocese there are lay people trained to be advocates - not lawyers, but still fully understanding the meaning and process that an annulment goes through and you contact/deal with them rather than your parish priest (who usually is not involved - at least not in the situations I am aware of). So it seems there are different scenarios depending on how the diocese handles these matters.

To the OP - best advice is to try to hold onto the belief that they do not mean to be as irritatingly frustrating as they come across (or perhaps they do as a means of weeding out those not fully committed to the process :shrug:). But anyway, there should be a contact number somewhere on your paperwork and I’d start there and use the traditional “kill them with kindness” method until they give you a solution to the financial matter that works for you and you at least understand exactly what your ex will/won’t get to see/read.

My prayers are with you since I’ve always had difficulty with situations where things aren’t clearly spelled out and the paperwork I’m given lays out something that seems completely unreasonable in cost and/or time frame. (currently facing this in a personal issue of my own - but that’s a different situation - just know I’m giving myself this pep talk as well as you!)

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this (sometimes it seems people go out of their way to make the “right” thing so darn difficult!) but hang in there and don’t give up. God’s got your back on this one :thumbsup:


#15

I had to deal with it myself, no priest because im not even Catholic yet.
It also cost me lots more than yours.:frowning:


#16

I never said “get” a canon lawyer. I said for the OP to “talk” to the Tribunal and to their assigned advocate. Did you know that in the USA, most Tribunals assign a canon lawyer or a properly trained person to be the advocate as part of the process? Yes, part of the fee goes to the salary of the on-staff canon lawyers who represent the parties upon the parties’ request (or filled check box in the application form). I would guess 98% of marriage nullity trials are fairly straight forward and no outside canon lawyer is needed.

Further, a priest at the parish is not able to give a fee waiver for the person seeking the delcaration of nullity (unless - as in some well to do parishes, they write the check themselves for poorer parishioners but this is very rare); it is the Judicial Vicar who gives the fee reductions or complete waivers. Hence talking honestly about the fees to the person who has the power to do something about it is important.

It is not the parish priest who can determine if certain parts of a file are redacted. That is up to the Judges in the Tribunal. A conversation is once more the ticket to coming to an equitable solution for an abusive situation complicating the annulment process. Trust me, abusive situations are nothing new, and we have ways of dealing with them in the process. The very best place to get help is the Tribunal. Call them. Canon lawyers are on staff. In one place I worked, we had two departments, the canonical services dept, and the Tribunal. Both had canon lawyers and we had canonists on call to answer questions. When I was the canonist on call in one diocese, I fielded all kinds of questions. Priests double checking on what was permitted for the sacraments, catechists needing clarification on something, and so on. To this day, I get contacted by priests because they only get a quick overview of canon law and marriage law in seminary and canon lawyers study 3 or more years.

Most parish priests do not have the time or training to be advocates. The most many will do will be to help fill out the intial paperwork. But a person must be a canon lawyer or be specially trained to be a legal advocate, and be able to “navigate” and advocate for the client. Once the average priest or deacon signs off on the initial paperwork, the party (in the USA) will normally get an advocate assigned to them if they have requested one, or they will go through the process self represented. This is something most petitioners/respondents do not understand. The person who helps them fill out their paperwork usually has no authority or ability to be their “attorney” and cannot have access to their files or file briefs. A true advocate does.


#17

Hello,

While I don’t know what some might charge, I haven’t even dreamt of such a fee. I guess I should set my sights a little higher!

In accord with what SerraSemper said, if I am asked to be someone’s advocate (even if it is for a case before a different Tribunal), I don’t get paid one cent by the client. And, if it happens that someone calls and has to ask a question, it’s not as though my phone has a clock on it that automatically starts along with the conversation. That’s all just part of the job.

Dan


#18

Right. In the USA, 99%+ of canon lawyers are employed by their diocese or religious order. The salary is paid out of the general diocesan funds in most dioceses because the fees generated by most tribunals do not come close to covering the true costs of the staff needed to process each case. In one diocese, 75% of the people who have gone through the process neglect to pay the fee. The fees are kept low so that people generally pay way less than they do for a civil divorce. Those who can’t pay are taken care of. On the other hand, in Europe and most other countries, the diocese **cannot afford to hire **canon lawyers to be advocates for the parties. The parties have to pay for them out of pocket and that can be very expensive. In places like Italy, the canon lawyer is usually also a civil attorney because the divorce cases go hand in hand with the church process. Regular attorney fees apply.

I am one of the rare birds in the USA, a canon lawyer in private practice, which means the diocese does NOT pay my salary. Thus my fee reflects the fact that I have had to pay for my lengthy education and to put food on the table and keep a roof over my head. I am a professional, and while I do do pro bono work, I have to be paid fairly for my services. Totally freelance canonists have fees averaging in the USA from $50 an hour to $250. Most that I know seem to be in the $125, $150 range.

For people wondering why the wait times are so long on the cases, there are many reasons. One of the biggest reasons, however, is that there are very few people who go into the field who are not priests sent by their bishops. Why should someone go into canon law, doing 3 years after a masters in theology, to get a low salary that can’t support a family? A starting salary in most locations in the USA is $30k-$40k. That is unfair and ridiculous, but the church has yet to catch up on giving fair wages to its canon lawyers because priests have dominated the field so long. Lay people cannot survive on those wages. It is ridiculous that people with a lot less training in the same chancery make a lot more than canonists.


#19

I’m sorry you’re frustrated. My prayers are with you.

My friend is engaged to be married. His fiance was married twice before, is not Catholic, was baptized a Christian.

My question - will both marriages need to go through the annulment process? I thought since regarding the second marriage, it isn’t valid, as she wasn’t free to marry again, as she was still in the first marriage.

Am I correct?

Thanks!


#20

My understanding is that she will need to go through the process once for each marriage. If her first marriage was not valid, she was free to enter a valid marriage the second time, and then it will be necessary to prove that her second marriage was not valid before she would be free to marry.


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