In the Catholic church, an annulment, also known as a Declaration of Invalidity, is a finding by the church that a marriage was not a valid and sacramental marriage. An annulment does not have any bearing on the civil status of a marriage, and most dioceses will not consider an annulment until you obtain a civil divorce. The annulment process generally takes from 12 to 18 months to complete, and is required before a Catholic is permitted to marry again in the Catholic church.
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Determine the grounds for seeking annulment. The Catholic church recognises a variety of reasons for annulment including the inability, before the wedding, to agree to or understand a Catholic marriage, psychological incapacity, and refusal to have children or be faithful.
Contact the priest of your parish. The priest will begin the application process, requiring you to complete an application detailing the history of your marriage, and to produce documentation of the marriage, divorce and your baptism. You will also need to provide names of witnesses who can speak about your courtship, wedding and marriage. These materials will then be sent to the diocese's marriage tribunal.
Determine the filing fee for your annulment. The fee varies by diocese and is used to cover tribunal expenses. If you cannot afford the filing fee, a hardship provision can be made through your parish.
Schedule an interview with a staff member of the marriage tribunal. At this interview, you can ask questions or express concerns and learn more about the process. You may also request that the church appoint an advocate to prepare a document explaining the grounds for annulment on your behalf. After the interview, the tribunal will investigate your request by reviewing the provided materials, contacting your witnesses and speaking to your former spouse. A tribunal judge will then decide your case, and his decision will be reviewed by a three judge panel.
Consult with your advocate after the tribunal reaches a decision. If the annulment is denied, the advocate can guide you through the appeals process. Even if the annulment is granted, the tribunal may still require counselling before remarriage and your advocate will explain the next steps.
Tips and warnings
- If you plan to use a doctor or counsellor as a witness you need to fill out a patient release form.
- You may have to divulge sensitive information during the annulment process, including details of your sex life, abuse, or infidelity.
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