The Annulment Process & Requirements
Who may apply?
Any divorced person has the right to ask for an investigation of a previous marriage by the Marriage Tribunal. Only a party to the marriage may apply.
How is the Process Started?
An application is started by emailing or phoning the Tribunal offices (firstname.lastname@example.org / (02) 8379 1681) for an initial interview. Following this interview, a preliminary assessment is made, after which the applicant is advised whether the case is considered worth further investigation. If grounds are identified, the applicant may be requested to present a comprehensive written submission, according to the guidelines provided by the Tribunal. Alternatively, they may be invited to have a full preliminary interview with one of the staff from the Tribunal.
Is the former spouse contacted?
The former spouse, as a party to the marriage, has the right to be informed. It is a requirement of canon law that the other party be contacted and given the opportunity to participate in the investigation in the same manner as the applicant. If they choose not to participate the process can continue without them.
Are witnesses necessary?
They are. Witnesses are normally nominated by the parties to the marriage. They are not simply character referees; they should have some knowledge of the background of one or both parties, their courtship as well as the about the marriage relationship. Witnesses must be willing to be interviewed confidentially by the Tribunal.
It may also be necessary to ask the applicant's written permission to obtain relevant medical reports or to request professional evaluation by a psychologist.
Who has access to the information gathered?
The Tribunal must observe relevant reporting and privacy laws of the State and Commonwealth. The parties to the marriage have the opportunity to know what evidence has been presented also the decision and the basis on which it was made.
How is a decision reached?
When it is considered by the Tribunal that there is sufficient evidence for a decision to be reached, the formal sessions of the Tribunal are held. The parties are not required to attend. The Defender of the Marriage Bond is always involved to uphold the teachings of the Church on marriage and its permanence. The decision is made by Judges of the Tribunal, who may declare that the annulment granted. If the annulment is not granted then the validity of the marriage is upheld.
What happens after the decision?
The parties are notified of the decision and given a certain timeframe within which they may choose to appeal.
Is every application successful?
No. The decision rests entirely with the Tribunal after reviewing all the evidence. The fact that evidence is taken should not be interpreted as an indication of a favourable decision. Even when an affirmative decision has been given, before being permitted to marry in the Church, it is quite possible that the applicant will be required to attend counselling. Such counselling is a requirement to safeguard the hope that the subsequent marriage will be successful.
How long does all this take?
Each application is dealt with individually. Where a person has been married more than once each union needs to be considered separately. Where both parties to a proposed marriage have been previously married each union would need investigation. Due to the number of applications and the varying factors involved in different cases, no time can be specified. The average time for an outcome is between twelve and eighteen months.
Should a date be set for a wedding?
A booking for a Church wedding should not be made until a personal notification that a person is free to marry has been sent to the celebrant. Setting a tentative date may lead to disappointment since the outcome of the investigation is unknown until a decision is given. If a date is already set it could place pressure on the applicant, their proposed partner, their minister and the Tribunal staff.
What are the fees for annulment?
The Tribunal costs are heavily subsidised by the Diocese of Broken Bay. However, the Bishops of NSW & ACT have agreed that a fee should be charged so each applicant is asked to contribute to the cost of investigating their case. The fee of $750 can be paid in instalments during the time of the case. In difficult financial circumstances, the fees may be reduced. No one is refused an application if they are unable to afford the fee.
Is it All Worthwhile?