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A. A declaration of nullity, commonly called an annulment, is a statement by the Church that a union which appeared to be a marriage was not in fact the sort of binding union Christ called marriage.
Following the teaching of Christ, the Catholic Church believes that a valid, sacramental, (i.e., between two baptized persons), consummated marriage can be dissolved only by death. A Church declaration of nullity does not deny that the spouses had a wedding ceremony with real civil effects or that they loved each other. It does not deny that there was a real union between the spouses. It does say that that union, however real, lacked something essential to the kind of union Christ called marriage.
A. No. A Church declaration of nullity has no civil effects and cannot be used to question a childs legitimacy. It will not change the terms of a civil divorce, or child custody and child support arrangements.
A. Whether or not you were Catholic, the Tribunal will need to look at all previous marriages you or your spouse (Catholic or not) have entered, as long as the previous spouse(s) is still alive. In states where “common law” or “informal” marriages are recognized, those marriages must be addressed also.
A. Yes. There is nothing preventing a divorced Catholic who has not remarried and is not living in a sexual relationship with anyone from receiving the sacraments of Eucharist (Communion), Penance (Confession), or Anointing of the Sick (Last Rites). You may also serve as a godparent for Baptism and a sponsor for Confirmation.
A. No. The penalty of automatic excommunication was removed by Pope Paul VI in November 1977. However, a divorced and remarried Catholic who has not received a declaration of nullity from the Church regarding a previous marriage or marriages, or who has remarried outside the Church, may not receive the sacraments. A person in this situation is urged to begin the process to request a declaration of nullity as soon as possible to see if this situation can be remedied.
Among the reforms regarding the processes used to determine the nullity of marriage, the "Apostolic Letter Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus of Pope Francis" has eliminated the fee for any type of petition brought before the Tribunal. Therefore, as of December 8, 2015, the Tribunal of the Diocese of Fort Worth, in compliance with this directive, will no longer assess a fee to petition for a Decree of Invalidity of any prior marriage(s).
However, in some cases the opinion of a Court Appointed Expert may be required. The Expert, who is a licensed professional counselor with a Ph.D., is asked to evaluate the testimonies presented and the petitioner is asked to bear the cost that the Expert charges, usually $100. If an interview with the Expert is necessary, because of the complexity of the case, an additional fee of $150 will be charged.
A. Yes. By Church law we must let your former spouse know this process is occurring and offer him or her the opportunity to present testimony and to be involved in the process. Exceptions to this rule are extremely rare and require that additional information be provided directly to the Tribunal.
A. No. Your former spouse does not “grant” the declaration of nullity, the Church does. Your former spouse(s) may oppose the declaration of nullity, but ultimately it is not up to either of the parties to decide whether or not it is granted. We must offer your former spouse the opportunity to be involved. However, his or her failure to take the opportunity will not cause your case to stop, nor will his or her opposition to the process.
A. Yes. You will need to name witnesses who are able to speak with first-hand knowledge about your background, about your former spouse(s), your courtship and the beginning of your marriage. If you have any difficulties or questions regarding this, please contact the Tribunal at 817-560-3300.
A. It depends on the type of case you have and on the Tribunal’s caseload at any given time. You can assist the process by cooperating fully and promptly with the requests of the Tribunal and your parish-based Tribunal liason or volunteer. This includes providing necessary documents, addresses for the respondent and your witnesses, and your own testimony, in a timely manner.
A. For many, a decree of nullity will allow them to enter into new marriages recognized by the Catholic Church. Others find that working through the process can bring healing and closure, even if they do not currently have plans to marry. However, only those hope to marry again in the Church (or enter Holy Orders or religious life) need to petition for a decree of nullity.
A. Call your parish Church and ask to make an appointment with the parish staff member or volunteer who handles marriage nullity cases. If you don’t know what parish you belong to, or your parish does not have someone who handles these matters, give us a call at the Tribunal: 817-560-3300.
May God bless you as you seek to know and embrace His will.
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Very Rev. Anh Tran, JCL
Very Rev. Timothy Thompson, JCL
Anna Marie Chamblee, JCL
Rev. Joy Joseph, TOR, JCL