Welcome to the Office of the Tribunal! The Tribunal protects persons’ rights and determines their status in the Church, following its purpose in the Code of Canon Law.
In our diocese, the Tribunal serves those who seek to enter a new marriage after a former marriage has ended in divorce by determining whether or not the former marriage is invalid or is able to be dissolved.
Marriage Tribunal Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the marriage tribunal?
A: A tribunal is a court of the Catholic Church that has the authority, coming from the Bishop of the diocese, to decide matters that pertain to the laws of the Church and of the Sacraments. Tribunals most often examine cases of nullity of marriages.
Q: What is an annulment?
A: An annulment is the declaration by the competent authority of the Church that a marriage or other Sacrament is null from the beginning. An annulment does not dissolve a marriage, rather it declares that a marriage never existed.
Q: How much does an annulment cost?
A: The process of the declaration of nullity is free of charge. The process, however, is somewhat labor intensive and donations are freely accepted but not expected.
Q: How do I start the process for an annulment?
A: The first step in starting the process is to talk with your pastor. Either he, or someone he delegates, will act as your Advocate and be able to help you start the process and provide you with the paperwork. If you need assistance in obtaining an Advocate, please call the Tribunal.
Q: How long does an annulment take?
A: The process of the declaration of the nullity of a marriage is complex and is heavily dependent upon the cooperation of many moving parts. An essential part of this process is the collection of witness testimony concerning the marriage in question. Depending upon how long it takes for this testimony to arrive, and provided that enough usable testimony is gathered, the process of the declaration of nullity of a marriage could take 14 to 18 months from the time the case is accepted in our Tribunal to final judgment.
Q: If I get an annulment, does that affect the legitimacy of my children?
A: The Church is very clear that any children born from a putative marriage, that is a marriage that was thought to be perfectly valid, are in no way illegitimate.
Q: All of this seems pretty complicated. Why bother in the first place? God knows my situation and He understands – why do I need the Church to get involved?
A: This process can in fact seem very complicated and, to the outsider, perhaps even arbitrary. The process of the declaration of the nullity of a marriage, however, is based on centuries of the Church’s experience in seeking and determining the truth of the reality of a Sacrament. The Church takes this process so seriously because she takes marriage so seriously. The Sacrament of Marriage is holy – “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matt 19:6) – it shows forth to the whole world the mystery of Christ’s perfect, fruitful, and never-ending love for His Bride, the Church. The Church gets involved because marriage by its very nature is public – just as the duly deputed minister of the Church is required to witness the marriage between two Catholics (just like a deputy of the State is required in civil marriages), so too the Church has the authority to declare that what was thought to be a sacramental bond was in fact lacking (perhaps without any fault on the part of one or both Parties) from the very beginning.
Q: I am not Catholic and my former spouse is not Catholic. Why must I go through the annulment process?
A: All marriages are presumed to be valid by the Catholic Church unless otherwise proven. Therefore, in most circumstances, your marriage must be formally examined by a Catholic marriage tribunal and declared null before the Catholic wedding may take place.
Q: I hesitate to seek a declaration of nullity because I’m afraid that all it will do is bring up past hurts. What advice do you have for someone like me?
A: Many people who seek the declaration of nullity of a marriage have been through horrible heartache, pain, and disappointment; thus, this process can be difficult for so many. We at the Tribunal can attest, however, that the Lord’s words ring especially true in this very circumstance: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:31-32). Seeking the truth of a situation is the primary responsibility of any and every marriage tribunal. We can attest, as can your local parish priest, that healing, relief, and the removal of any sense of guilt often follow the declaration of nullity of a marriage. The primary ministry of this Tribunal is to be an instrument of the peace that comes from knowing the Truth, who as we Christians know, is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.