Does an annulment affect the legitimacy of children?

No. The legitimacy of children is determined by the laws of the states. Just as a divorce does not make children illegitimate, neither does an annulment granted by the Church. The laws of the Church state that children born into a marriage that are recognized by the state are legitimate children. Therefore, if the marriage is later shown to have been invalid, the status of the children remains unchanged: they are legitimate.

Does an annulment have anything to do with civil law?

No. In the United States, a declaration that a marriage was invalid from the start has no effect before the laws of any state. It does not affect anything that is determined by civil law such as alimony, child custody, visitation rights, division of property, legitimacy of the children, etc. A declaraton of nullity affects only one’s relationship to the Roman Catholic Church and remarriage after a civil divorce.

How is a case submitted to the Tribunal?

A petition to study a marriage that has ended in civil divorce can begin on the Parish level with the priest or other Parish minister assisting who then submits your petition to the Tribunal. Also, a petition can begin at the Tribunal Office with one of the Tribunal staff members. Please see “Annulment Forms”, print off the correct form and submit it to the Tribunal office with all the required documents.

How is an annulment process started?

The Tribunal of the Diocese of Saint Cloud has established a policy that the annulment process will not be started until six months after issuance of the final divorce decree.

No wedding date must be set until an affirmative decision has been rendered.
The annulment process requires the following:

A)
 The petitioner contacts his/her parish priest or a Tribunal Staff Member in order to petition and begin the annulment procedure. Your parish priest can give you the correct annulment form or you can print it from this website. Please see “Annulment Forms”, to print off the correct form needed at the left of this page.
1) The petitioner needs to present the following documents at the time of the application:
a) Baptismal certificate of self and of former spouse.
b) Certificate of marriage.
c) Divorce decree (Final Judgment).
d) Current address of former spouse. (this is required)
e) The Diocese of St. Cloud will no longer be charging a set fee for annulments. If you wish to make a donation to help defray the cost(s) of the work of the Tribunal, it would be greatly appreciated. Please make checks payable to: Tribunal of the Diocese of St. Cloud or you may go to: http://www.stcdio.org/pay to make an online donation under “Tribunal-Annulments”.
2) The petitioner has a recorded preliminary interview (conducted by a parish priest, deacon, or a Tribunal Staff Member)  -OR-  writes a narrative that covers in depth the following factual information about the petitioner and his/her former spouse:
a) Description of childhood and home life of self and former spouse. Alcoholism or chemical addiction in family background?
b) Description of dating process and maturity of self and former spouse.
c) Description of how the decision to marry was reached.
d) Description of ability to communicate and resolve conflicts.
e) Description of problems that developed in the marriage and when they began.
f) Description of attempted solutions to the problems.
g) Description of performance of roles of husband/wife, father/mother.
h) Description of how the decision to divorce was reached.

B)
 When there are ground(s) for a declaration of nullity, the Tribunal will contact both, the petitioner and the respondent.

C)
 Prior to the formal hearing you, the petitioner, must complete and return the witness list. Witnesses include 2-3 adult people who knew you prior to and during your marriage and can give us information about the marriage. At the time of the formal hearing you, the petitioner, must bring these witnesses in with you. A witness can be a brother, sister, parent, friend, co-worker, neighbor or a member of the wedding party.  Witnesses should not all be relatives. We do not interview children of the marriage. At the formal hearing the petitioner and the witnesses will be questioned privately and information obtained in the interview will not be shared with anyone except the members of the Court.

D)
 If the petition comes to formal hearing the following will occur:
1) All testimony is gathered and sent to the Court Members.
2) Advocate and the Defender of the Bond present their briefs to the Judge.
3) Judge(s) renders a decision.
4) Both the petitioner and the respondent have the right to appeal the decision of the Court of First Instance.
5) Judge’s decision is sent to Appeal Court, the Court of Second Instance. (only if appealed by either the petitioner or the respondent)
6) When decision is returned from Appeal Court, the Court of Second Instance, the petitioner and the respondent will be notified of decision. Or, it stays in-house and the petitioner and respondent are notified of the decision.
7) A vetitum (prohibition) may be attached to the decision, requiring that either or both spouses must attend professional counseling with a counselor approved by the Tribunal before being allowed to marry in the Catholic Church. The average length for the Tribunal to process a petition is 12 months. (Unless it is appealed to the higher court, that average length is 18-24 months.) No wedding date can be set until an affirmative decision has been rendered. The Court could require that you participate in an evaluation or counseling with your intended spouse. This requirement is made so that your future marriage may be happy and fulfilling.

Please note that the decision will be rendered in a timely fashion and is not contingent on full payment of fee.
If you have additional questions about annulment procedures, contact the Diocese of Saint Cloud Office of The Tribunal: (320) 251-6557

How long does it take to complete the formal process of annulment?

There is simply no way to promise that your case will be completed within a certain period of time or that the outcome will be in your favor. However, the general norm is that it takes approximately 12 months. The time frame for a declaration of nullity depends on many factors.  For instance, if the petitioner does not complete the necessary document gathering in a timely fashion, the annulment will be delayed.

How much does the annulment procedure cost?

As of July 1, 2016 the Tribunal of the Diocese of St. Cloud will no longer be charging a set fee for annulments. With the promulgation of Pop Francis’ Motu Proprio Mitis Judex Dominus Jesus, this fee has been eliminated. There are many expenses involved in the process and to help defray these expenses, you may wish to make a donation. http://www.stcdio.org/pay

Is an annulment ever denied?

Yes. Some cases are given a negative decision; that is, the judge decides that the marriage was a valid and binding union. If this should happen, you will be notified of that decision by the Tribunal. You would then have the option of appealing the decision to either the Appellate Court in St. Paul/Minneapolis or the Roman Rota. The Roman Rota is the Supreme Court of the Church for marriage cases (among other things).

What documents are needed?

The following documents are required to begin an annulment case.

• Copies of the baptismal certificates of all Catholic parties involved.
• A copy of the civil marriage license.
• A copy of the church marriage certificate
• A copy of the divorce decree certified or signed by the Judge.


What is a declaration of nullity (a.k.a. annulment)?

A declaration of nullity states that, according to Church law, a given marriage was not valid (and therefore not binding) at the time a couple spoke their marriage vows. A person asks this Office to look at a previous marriage which has ended in divorce, and, if possible, to issue a declaration that this previous marriage no longer binds either party to the union. In no way should this process be thought of as a type of “Catholic Divorce.” A declaration of nullity states that a marriage was invalid from the beginning. A civil divorce, on the other hand, asserts that a marriage, valid or not, is dissolved. The Catholic Church does not grant divorces.

Neither is an annulment a statement that a marriage never existed civilly or in the Church. Rather, it is a determination that certain conditions were present at the time the marriage was entered that made it an invalid union according to Catholic Church teaching. The civil effects and recognition of that marriage remain intact and unchanged. An annulment is not a statement that the marriage was entered into in bad faith by either of the parties. It is not a statement of who caused the marriage to fail or who was most guilty for its failure. Those are certainly important questions for a person to ask. But they are not the questions a Tribunal must answer. The annulment process, in its most simple form, involves any person coming to the Church and asking to be heard. Information is gathered by us and in the end, we answer that person’s request: the marriage was invalid or valid according to the laws of the Church.


What other information is needed?

In some cases, a psychological opinion will be sought from a professional who assists the Tribunal. Rarely is your participation required when a psychological opinion is sought by the Tribunal.

When can I set a wedding date?

A wedding date should never be set until the declaration of nullity has been received. The reason for this is that one is never sure of the outcome of a case: usually from the St. Cloud Tribunal. If the St. Cloud Tribunal grants an affirmative decision, the former spouse may appeal the case to the Appellate Court and it may overturn that decision. Or the former spouse may decide to appeal the St. Cloud decision to a higher court.

In certain circumstances, depending on the pastor you are in contact with, you may begin marriage preparation in hopes of eventually entering a new marriage. However, since the outcome is never certain, no date should be set, no invitations ordered, etc., until the declaration of nullity has been received and confirmed.


When does the decision become final?

The decision becomes final when the Diocese of Saint Cloud Tribunal give an affirmative decision (meaning that the marriage in question was invalid).

When is a decision reached?

After all of the information is gathered, a panel of judges will write the decision. They will decide whether or not the marriage was indeed invalid from the start. Another person who is known as the Defender of the Bond also participates. The Defender of the Bond represents the marriage itself, speaking in favor of all the facts that support the validity of the marriage. After the judge reaches a decision, both you and your former will be notified of the decision (unless the former spouse does not wish to be notified). If either of you disagrees with it, there is a process of appeal available to you. The decision can be appealed either to the Appellate Court, the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

Who can apply for an annulment?

Almost always, a person seeking an annulment is someone who has been married, is now divorced for six months and wishes to marry again, specifically in the Catholic Church.

Divorced people, no matter what their religious affiliation, have a carefully protected right in this Church to ask the Church to determine whether or not their previous marriage was valid. If they are not of the Catholic faith, they seek this generally because they wish to remarry, and the intended spouse is a Catholic who wants the marriage to be recognized by the Catholic Church. We respect the vows of marriage of all people, no matter what their religious affiliation is. Members of the Catholic Church, however, are bound to have their marriage recognized by the Church. This is why members of other churches must often go through an annulment process before they can marry someone in the Catholic Church.


Who can be witnesses?

You are asked to contact two or more people who might express a willingness to help with your case. These should be people who know something about the marriage in question, especially the period right before and right after your wedding. These people usually are friends or family members. You should tell all the witnesses that they have your permission to speak freely to the court.

Will my former spouse be contacted?

Yes. We are required by Church law to notify your former spouse that the process has begun and to offer him or her the opportunity to make a response. Your former spouse will be sent a letter explaining the process that was initiated.
It is very helpful to have the participation of the former spouse. However, we obviously cannot require the former spouse to take part in the process. Your former spouse does not have to agree to the annulment. Nor does the former spouse have to agree to participate. But we must let the former spouse know the process has begun and what the eventual result of it is. Sometimes, it happens that the current address of the former spouse is not known. In such a situation, the address of a parent will suffice if the marriage in question took place in the territory of the Diocese of Saint Cloud. When the marriage did not take place in this territory it is imperative a current address is sought for the former spouse. There are several places on the Internet that might help you find a recent address. For example, one helpful site is http://www.locateme.com

What if I have other questions?

You are more than welcome to call the Tribunal at (320) 251-6557 and talk to one of the staff persons who can assist you. Or  send us an email.