The process begins in the parish. All the necessary forms are obtainable from the parish. We strongly recommend that these forms be completed with assistance from the parish priest, deacon or Parish Advocate. There are three forms:
- The Formal Petition is a single sheet identifying the two parties, the diocese of their residence and marriage, and the canonical grounds being sought as the basis for annulment. This is signed by the Petitioner along with the parish priest, deacon or Parish Advocate who had assisted the Petitioner.
- The Petitioner’s Agreement is a two-page contract listing the responsibilities of the Petitioner and the Tribunal within the process. This is initialed and signed by the Petitioner and signed by the assisting parish priest, deacon, or Parish Advocate.
- The Initial Statement is written by the Petitioner and is a detailed history of the two parties who dated and had given their consent to marry. The form itself offers guidance with regard to completing it and is also signed by the Petitioner and the parish priest, deacon or Parish Advocate.
The Tribunal will offer assistance to the Petitioner during every step of the process. There are professionally trained Parish Advocates throughout the diocese who will assist the Petitioner in preparing the application to be presented to the Tribunal, and Special Advocates who are prepared to focus special attention to the more difficult cases that have already been presented in order for these cases to move forward.
The Tribunal will consider any Petition submitted, but only if there is an indication that the marriage was not valid, and provably so, will the process commence. If the initial facts do not allow for the establishment of canonical grounds, or if there is some possibility of establishing grounds but no possibility of proving them, the Petition can not be accepted.
Canon Law prescribes the rejection of a Petition if there is no basis for consideration and “there is no possibility that any such basis will appear through a process.” (c. 1505) For the Tribunal to do otherwise would not only be unfair in the receipt of payment to defray some of the costs of the continuing investigation, but would also be an injustice to all the parties involved, especially close relatives and friends who had been asked to participate in the process by submitting statements as witnesses to a case which has no basis.
The annulment process is an extensive investigation into the complete relationship between a man and a woman, beginning with when they first met and continuing on through to their casual dating, exclusive courtship, formal engagement and finally into their marriage.
The Judge-Instructor of the case takes the testimony of the parties, gathers the evidence submitted by their witnesses, and monitors the progress of the case. The Tribunal will advise the Petitioner when evidence is lacking and the case is not strong enough to stand trial. In such a situation, a Special Advocate can be assigned to work with the Petitioner on a weak case to recommend other avenues of proof or gathering additional evidence.
The critical question the Petitioner should ask
“How long will this process take?”
“How well prepared is my case?”
Before submitting a Petition, certain essential documents should be secured by the Petitioner.
The essential documents required before the forms are completed and sent to the Tribunal are the following:
- For baptized Catholics, the Tribunal will request the Baptismal Certificates from the places of baptism that the Petitioner identifies on the forms for both parties;
- For a Petitioner who was baptized or dedicated in another Faith, the Petitioner must secure and submit a copy of that certificate;
- A certified copy of the civil marriage license if the marriage took place outside the Catholic Church;
- A certified copy of the final Divorce Decree; (The entire divorce or property settlement is not required)
- If either party has not been baptized, a statement or document of non-baptism is required. The Tribunal will assist you in securing this.
The Tribunal will assist you with any questions you may have regarding the required documents. The information listed on these documents will need to be entered on the forms you are submitting.
Once your Petition is accepted you will be asked to set a date to give formal testimony. The Tribunal will mail questionnaires to the witnesses who have agreed to participate on behalf of yourself and your former spouse. You will be kept informed of the progress of your case and you need to respond whenever contacted by the Tribunal.
Without the active participation of the Petitioner, the Tribunal is unable to continue with the investigation. The case would then become inactive. The Petitioner will be notified that the case will be placed in the Inactive File and what will be needed to reactivate it.