Who may apply for an annulment?
Any divorced Catholic has the right to ask for an investigation of a previous marriage by the appropriate tribunal of the Catholic Church. Any non-Catholic divorced person remarried to a Catholic, intending to become a Catholic or intending marriage to a Catholic has the same right. Only a party to the marriage, however, may apply.
How long will the annulment process take?
Requests, once accepted, are heard on a first come, first served basis. The sooner the case is completely documented, the sooner the case is considered. The average time is twelve to eighteen months for the process to be complete.
Among the practical factors that prolong the process are:
How much does this cost?
As of July 1, 2016, the fee for the formal annulment process has been waived.
How soon after divorce can I seek an annulment?
The policy is not to accept any request for a marriage that has not received a final divorce decree. Only after the final decree is in effect can the Tribunal be approached.
How is my ex-spouse involved?
It is a requirement of canon law that your former spouse be informed of the investigation and given an opportunity to participate in the investigation. You will not be required to have any direct contact with your former spouse during this process. However, the Tribunal is required to have direct contact with your former spouse. If your former spouse chooses not to cooperate or participate in the investigation, your application for an annulment will still be considered.
What are witnesses?
In a formal case process witnesses are necessary. Persons proposed as witnesses can be nominated by either of the spouses of the marriage. They are not simply character references. These people must be willing to be interviewed confidentially by the Tribunal about what they know about the marriage or respond in writing if at a distance. They must have some knowledge of the marriage under question.
Does this affect civil proceedings?
There are absolutely no civil effects to a Church annulment in the United States. It does not affect in any manner the legitimacy of children, property rights, inheritance rights, change of names, adoption, etc., nor is there any attempt in this process to impute guilt or to punish persons.
Does an annulment affect the legitimacy of children?
NO! Children are a gift from God. The law of the Church states that children born of a marriage that is later declared invalid are legitimate. Children cannot lose their legitimacy.
Does the Catholic Church allow remarriage?
Permission to remarry in the Catholic Church can, in no way, be guaranteed before the completion of the entire process of study and formal proceedings, including a review by the Appellate Court. Diocesan policy forbids arrangements for future marriages to be made before that time. The Tribunal cannot be responsible for arbitrary promises made by any priest, religious or layperson.
In some cases, there may be conditions which either or both parties must fulfill before a Catholic Church marriage can take place. The Church wants to be reasonably certain that the same factors that caused the invalidity of the previous marriage are no longer present.
In some cases, for example, the Tribunal might require professional counseling or evaluation by a priest or counselor to verify that both paries are properly disposed for a successful marital union.
If an annulment is granted and there are no restrictions attached to it, preparation for a subsequent marriage in the Church may be started within the local parish.
Is it really worthwhile?
For many, going through an annulment process may involve some painful or anxious moments, as this process often involves aspects of unresolved grief. However, it can be a pastoral and therapeutic process while still being a canonical procedure. Many applicants find that the process itself, and the sensitive approach of tribunal staff, can be an experience of healing and an opportunity to find freedom from the debilitating memories of the past.
Moreover, whether a decree of nullity is issued or not, the decision may bring peace of mind to the parties who have been wondering or questioning whether the Church would regard the marriage in question as valid or invalid. Naturally, a decree of nullity brings many persons the satisfaction of being able to celebrate a planned marriage in the Catholic Church, or to have another marriage (already entered) validated by the Church. But even those applicants who petition unsuccessfully for a decree of nullity can at least make their future plans with a clear understanding of their marital status as best the Church can judge.
Is a divorced person excommunicated from the Church?
NO! A Catholic is not excommunicated when he or she is divorced. A divorced person is fully and completely a member of the Church.
Can a divorced person receive communion?
Yes. There is nothing itself that prevents a divorced Catholic from receiving the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. It is only a marriage or remarriage outside the Church that would affect receiving the Eucharist.