WHAT IS AN ANNULMENT? The term annulment refers to an official statement by the appropriate Tribunal of the Catholic Church that what appeared to be a marriage was, in fact, not a true marriage. Annulment, or declaration of nullity as it is called in Church law, does not deny that a real relationship existed, nor does it imply that the relationship was entered into with ill will or moral fault. It means that the relationship fell short of at least one of the essential elements for a binding union. Unlike a civil divorce which breaks a marriage bond, an annulment is a Church declaration that the union was invalid from the moment the couple exchanged consent.
ARE THERE ANY CIVIL EFFECTS TO A CHURCH ANNULMENT? WHAT ABOUT THE LEGITIMACY OF CHILDREN? Children born of a marriage which might later be declared null are always considered by both canon and civil law to be legitimate. There are absolutely no civil effects from a Church annulment in the United States. Therefore, the annulment does not affect in any manner the custody of children, property rights, inheritance rights or names. These issues are under the jurisdiction of the civil courts. The purpose of the annulment procedure is to serve one’s conscience and, where necessary, to reconcile persons so that they may fully participate in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
WHO MAY APPLY FOR AN ANNULMENT? Anyone who has been previously married, whether baptized or unbaptized, Catholic or non-Catholic, may seek an annulment. A petition must be submitted in writing before the Tribunal which has jurisdiction in that particular case. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction is determined by such factors as where the wedding took place or where both parties currently reside. The Tribunal does not usually accept an annulment petition until a person can prove that a civil divorce has already been granted. (802) 658-6110, Ext. 1331 Fax: (802) 658-0436
HOW DOES SOMEONE BEGIN THE PROCESS? A packet with additional instructions and the forms to be completed are available in every parish in the Diocese. However, if for some particular reason this would be especially difficult for you, please contact the Judicial Vicar at the Tribunal to make other arrangements. Of course, any questions concerning the annulment process can be directed to anyone on the Tribunal.
WHAT ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY? Only the Petitioner, Respondent, and the Tribunal staff have access to the case material. For everyone else, including your pastor, the information is confidential.
HOW LONG DOES THE PROCEDURE TAKE? The cooperation of the Petitioner, Respondent, and witnesses, and the quality of their testimony as well as the backlog of cases, and the requirement for review of every case by an Appellate Tribunal have a significant effect on the length of time each case takes. No two cases are alike, but the norm is 12 months. The Tribunal is required by law to give a specified amount of time to various steps in the process. Your cooperation and patience is important. There is no way that any member of the Tribunal staff can predict when a given case will be finished. Finally, you should know that diocesan regulations stipulate that no new marriage may be scheduled in any Catholic parish until the annulment process is complete.
IS THERE A FEE FOR TRIBUNAL SERVICES? No, there is no cost for a formal annulment case in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.