An annulment, formally called “a declaration of nullity,” is an official declaration by the Roman Catholic Church that a marriage did not meet the requirements for validity. Validity means that the desired outcome (in this case, marriage) has actually taken place as recognized by the Church.
Although to all outward appearances, a wedding was properly celebrated (the vows were recited before the priest in a Catholic church, etc.), there is much more needed for the wedding to be understood as a sacred union. For instance, the internal dispositions of the parties and a proper understanding of what marriage is all about are also requirements for a valid marriage.
This determination is based on a thorough examination of the marriage in question by the local diocesan tribunal. The tribunal–the formal name for a church court–looks at information submitted by one or both of the former spouses to see if all the requirements for a valid marriage were present in their union.
A civil divorce is the dissolving of the marriage relationship by the State in which the parties live. The Church holds that marriage is a sacramental union of a man and woman that can be dissolved only by the death of one of the spouses. In the annulment procedure the Church examines whether the union did in fact reach its fullness and become all that the Church believes a marriage to be. It's important to note that the Church recognizes all marriages whether it's to Catholics, to Lutherans and mix of religions etc., you can be in a sacramental marriage and not be Catholic.
In order for a Roman Catholic to re-marry it is necessary that a previous marriage be determined defective in some manner (declared null). The Church believes that “marriage enjoys the favor of the law” and is therefore presumed to be valid, unless the contrary is proven.
In short, if a Catholic who has been married and divorced wants to enter into a valid Church marriage, an annulment is needed.
**If the person that the Catholic wishes to marry has been married before, that marriage too must be declared invalid by the Catholic Tribunal.
**an annulment is needed for EACH prior bond, if either party has been married before an annulment is required, if either party has been married multiple times an annulment for each prior bond is needed.
Regardless of what type of annulment you have you will need to provide;
a COMPLETE copy of the Divorce Decree. Copies are fine it does not have to be certified. You can get a copy from the County Clerk's Office where the divorce was finalized.
a copy of the Marriage Certificate. A copy of fine, it does not have to be certified. You can get a copy from the County Clerk's Office where you were married.
If you AND/OR your ex-spouse were Roman Catholic we need a current copy of the Baptismal Certificate. We will help you obtain that/those.
If you were married in the Catholic Church, we need copies of the prenuptial documentation. We will help you obtain that.
Items needed from the Tribunal;
in some cases a court appointed expert release form. We will provide you with any form or item needed from the Tribunal.
If you have a Solemn (aka Formal) case you will need to provide witnesses to the marriage that knew both you and your ex-spouse before you married. These four witnesses do NOT include your parents, parents are sent a separate questionnaire specific to their relationship with you. Witnesses can be relatives of either party (siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles and their spouses), roommates, coworkers, best man or maid of honor etc.
Pope Francis has made many wide sweeping changes in the annulment process and declared annulment should be easier to file for and easier to obtain. That does not mean that every case is ultimately granted, each marriage is reviewed by the Tribunal as required by Canon Law but the Pope has declared that compassion and mercy should be paramount in dealing with individuals who have suffered the loss of their marriage and are grieving. The number of annulments granted and the time frame it takes for the tribunal to make a determination varies greatly from diocese to diocese. Many factors influence the number of annulments granted including: the size of the diocese, the number of staff members employed by the tribunal, and the number of applications that are submitted. The type of annulment also determines the length of time it takes to complete a case. For documentary cases (such as a Ligamen or Absence of Canonical Forum) they range from 3-6months. For a Solemn (aka Formal) case in the Dallas Diocese it is taking roughly 12-15 months.
Part of the process for preparing the case for the tribunal will be establishing the “grounds” or "doubt" on which the tribunal will examine the case in question. In order for a marriage to be valid in the eyes of the Church, there must be at least:
a minimal knowledge of what constitutes sacramental marriage
adequate maturity on the part of the spouse to understand the seriousness of lifelong commitment
the ability to make a mature and responsible decision in accepting the duties that are to be assumed with marriage
freedom from internal or external pressures and fears.
Fees are left up to the Bishop of each Diocese to determine. There is no cost to file for an annulment presently in the Dallas Diocese. There are some fees you may acquire in a Solemn Case; a Court Appointed Expert Evaluation (CAE) and to submit the case to the Appellate Court to ratify an affirmative decision in the Dallas Tribunal. Depending on the type of evaluation requested by the Tribunal the fee can range from $125 - $300 and that is paid directly to the counselor completing the evaluation. .
There exists some limited variation in the materials that are needed to apply for an annulment. The process normally begins in a parish and the completing of a form that will summarize basic information about the applicant and the former spouse. Some questionnaires attempt to clarify possible grounds that might be pursued in the annulment. Some tribunals request a type of self-inventory or history to be written by the petitioner, which touches on issues related to early background of the applicant, courtship, marriage, and married life.
Every effort must be made to obtain the contact information of the former spouse (“respondent”). It is important that the respondent be given the opportunity to share perspectives on the former union. The unwillingness of the respondent to testify to the tribunal does not prohibit the case from moving forward.
The petitioner (You) will be asked to provide four witnesses that knew you before the marriage who have some insights and observations concerning the marital union. The Dallas Tribunal will proceed with fewer than 4 but they prefer 3-4. Most often these individuals are asked to complete a questionnaire and return it to the Tribunal. If for some reason (such as language barrier, age etc.) we can request an Auditor be assigned to call the witness and take the statement.
ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is the understanding of the Church that children born of a union that is later declared an invalid marriage (annulled) are not illegitimate. A Church Annulment is simply stating that the marriage was not a sacrament. We will ALWAYS say you were married to you ex-spouse. A Catholic Annulment is looking at the Sacrament of marriage not the legality of a marriage.
If the non-Catholic has been divorced, the marriage, in most circumstances is presumed to be valid, and therefore the person must obtain an annulment from a Catholic marriage tribunal before the Catholic wedding may take place.
The Catholic Church believes that marriage between one man and one woman is a natural institution; that is, it is woven into the very fabric of what it means to be part and parcel of the human family and reflects God’s plan for that family. When these two people are baptized Christians, this natural institution of marriage becomes a sacrament. In other words, because each person shares in the life of the Holy Spirit and discipleship to Jesus, their whole life together becomes a vibrant, visible sign of the invisible reality of God’s unending love for the world. Marriage brings the couple God’s rich blessing of grace—and the couple becomes a medium of God’s grace to others.
It is quite common, of course, for a Catholic to marry a member of a different Christian tradition. For example, many Catholics marry Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, members of nondenominational communities, or Christians who for one reason or another remain unaffiliated with a particular faith community. Other Catholics marry someone who has never been baptized. The person may be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or a person unaffiliated with any faith. Keep in mind that whether a Catholic enters into a sacramental marriage with a Christian of a different church or a valid marriage with a non-Christian, the Church supports the witness of love and fidelity the couple offers to the world.
The Catholic Church requires that its members exchange their consent (vows) before a Catholic priest or deacon and two witnesses. Sometimes when a Catholic marries a member of another Christian tradition, an unbaptized member of another faith (for example a Jewish or Muslim person), or a person not affiliated with any religion, the Catholic person’s pastor requests a “dispensation from form” from the local bishop. This allows him or another priest or deacon to receive the couple’s vows in the name of the Catholic Church.
If a Catholic is married by someone other than a Catholic priest or deacon and in the presence of two witnesses but doesn’t have the required dispensation, the marriage is considered invalid. Should this union end in divorce and the Catholic seek to remarry in the Catholic Church, it will be necessary to obtain a declaration of freedom to marry by completing a form and providing documentation that establishes the baptism of the Catholic party, that the marriage was performed by someone other than a Catholic priest or deacon, and that the party has been civilly divorced.
If you married in another faith or with a civil official without the necessary dispensation and then AT A LATER TIME came to the Church and had your marriage Convalidated (brought into the sacraments) then you will need an annulment.
Annulments are extremely confidential. Both parties can read any testimony in the Tribunal's file but you are required to sign a confidentiality agreement, you can not make copies nor take notes. You agree that no testimony can be used in an civil court case. Without your or your ex-spouse's written permission no one can look at your case besides the Tribunal personnel, you and your advocate.