Q & A about the Annulment Process
What is the Catholic View of Marriage?
Marriage is a covenant that a man and a woman establish between themselves as a partnership of the whole of life that is directed toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.
What is the difference between a divorce and an annulment?
Divorce is a formal and legal dissolution of marriage under civil law. In essence it means that the bond that was formed no longer exists. The annulment process is a Church proceeding which examines the bond that was formed under canon law. If the Church annulment is granted, it means that one of the essential elements for a binding marriage was not present at the time of consent (marriage).
What are essential elements?
Marriage is the living out of sacrificial love. As Christ gave himself for the Church, husbands and wives are called to give themselves totally to each other. Husbands and wives must not only have a clear understanding of the obligations of marriage and be willing to fulfill those obligations, but must also be capable of fulfilling those obligations. They must each be of sound mind and freely make their commitment.
Will my children be considered illegitimate?
No, legitimacy is a civil term, and as such does not apply in the case of Church annulments. Children are a gift from God, created in His image and likeness. They are entitled to love and support from their parents as well as from their faith community.
Are annulments expensive?
Annulments are not “for sale”. Petitioners are asked to make a fee commitment based on income. This payment helps to cover the administrative costs associated with processing an annulment. If a Petitioner (the individual petitioning the Tribunal to investigate their former marriage) is unable to make a fee commitment, he/she should inform their Advocate or the Tribunal. Non-payment does not slow down or stop the process of a case nor does the payment of excess fees assure an annulment will be granted. A Respondent (the individual responding to the petition of their former spouse) is never asked to make a fee commitment.
How long do annulments take?
Formal cases average eighteen months to process. Documentary cases can be processed within weeks. The determining factor for both types of cases is the receipt, by the Tribunal, of the necessary documentation and testimony.
What is the difference between a formal and a documentary case?
A case is processed as a formal case when: 1) one or both parties are Catholic and are married in the Catholic Church, or
2) both parties are non-Catholic and are married outside the Church, and neither party has a prior marriage that was not declared null.
A case is processed as a documentary case when:
1) one of the spouses is Catholic and the marriage was outside the Catholic Church, or
2) the ex-spouse was married prior to their marriage to the Petitioner.
As a divorced and remarried Catholic, may I receive Communion?
No. Receiving Communion is a public statement that one accepts all of the teachings of the Catholic Church, including marriage according to Church laws.
If I am divorced, but not remarried, may I receive Communion?
Yes. A divorced Catholic, in the state of grace, who has not remarried outside the Church, is in full communion with the Church and may receive Communion.
Will my being divorced and remarried outside the Church affect my ability to get an annulment of my prior marriage?
No. The annulment process examines the prior marriage in light of Church teaching. It does not examine the current status of either party.
Must my prior spouse be contacted?
Church law, out of fairness, requires that the ex-spouse be contacted, unless there are overriding circumstances.
What happens if the address of my former spouse is unknown?
If the whereabouts are unknown, the efforts made to locate the respondent must be documented.
What if my former spouse refuses to participate?
If the former spouse refuses to participate, the Tribunal will proceed to process the case.
What documents are required?
A copy of your marriage certificate and divorce decree are needed. If you are Catholic, a recent copy - issued within the last six months - of your baptismal certificate, with notations, is also needed.
How do I start the process?
Contact your pastor. Many priests prefer to do their own annulments or they may refer you to a lay advocate.
If you have any questions, as the case is processed, please consult your Advocate first. Extraordinary questions may be addressed to the Tribunal Office. We are dedicated to serving you. Please be assured of our sincere desire to help and a special remembrance in our prayers.