In presenting a petition for a Declaration of Nullity of your marriage, you are asking that your marital status be clarified in the Roman Catholic Church. The tribunal is an ecclesiastical court of law, and its proceedings are exclusively religious in nature. These proceedings are governed solely by the laws of the Roman Catholic Church. The primary purpose of the tribunal is to gather and sift through evidence in order to discover truth and serve justice. It is also the tribunal's desire that the proceedings be a healing experience conducted in the spirit of Christian understanding and compassion.
Out of respect for the human dignity of persons and the sacred nature of marriage, Church tribunals are required by law to approach each marriage as valid, presuming that you and your former spouse both meant what you said and accomplished when you first exchanged vows. There are numerous reasons, or grounds of nullity, why this presumption can be overturned. But decisions in such cases are not arbitrary. Declarations of Nullity are not favors given to innocent or deserving parties. They are statements about the deepest spiritual truth of your former union, as best as any human judge can determine. Judges must have moral certitude based on the evidence brought forward that your former union was missing one of the elements essential for marriage as the Church teaches God intended it to be. In the absence of such certitude, the judge must rule in the negative.
For the Petitioner
Concerning the Respondent (Your Former Spouse)
Please realize that Church law requires that your former spouse be contacted and offered the opportunity to testify. You must agree to make every effort to locate my former spouse so that he or she can be contacted by the Tribunal and invited to participate in the process. You do not need to have direct contact with your former spouse, unless you feel it is in your own best interests to contact them and encourage their response.
Testimony of witnesses is necessary to process your petition for a Declaration of Nullity. You must agree to make every effort to encourage their cooperation, but understand that you are in no way able to assist them in preparing their testimony.
Concerning the Development of the Trial and Plans for a Future Marriage
Please be aware of the following points in regard to your petition for a Declaration of Nullity:
• No assurance can be given of an affirmative decision (that is, one granting a Declaration of Nullity).
• No assurance can be given as to a definite time for the completion of the tribunal process.
• Should the tribunal office issue an affirmative decision in response to your petition, that this initial decision has no force until it is confirmed or upheld by a second affirmative decision by the Court of Appeals in the Archdiocese of Portland.
• Absolutely no arrangement can be made and no date scheduled for a future Catholic marriage or validation (not even a tentative date) until after you have received a final notification that two decisions have been issued.
• If the circumstances leading to the breakup and invalidity of the marriage so indicate, the tribunal may require that you seek professional counseling before any subsequent marriage in the Catholic Church is permitted. All expenses in connection with such therapy or counseling are your responsibility.
Because of the sensitive nature of information gathered in this process and because the tribunal wishes to promote a spirit of reconciliation, all information gathered in the course of this investigation is considered confidential. This information is never made available except as required by Church law for inspection by the Petitioner, the Respondent, the Officers of the Court (clergy, religious, lay), and the properly designated ecclesiastical Court of Appeals.
Concerning Expenses and Fees
The ordinary expenses incurred in processing formal marriage nullity cases of this nature are $225. This amount covers only a small percentage of total Tribunal costs for salaries, postage and telephone, office equipment, and secretarial expenses. Additionally, if the Tribunal is required to obtain documents, such as marriage certificates or divorce decrees, the cost of these documents are added to the standard fee. It is the responsibility of the Petitioner to defray these expenses. A filing fee of $25 is requested with the petition. The remaining fees are due and payable upon completion of the case. This obligation may be met on an installment basis, in amounts suitable to the Petitioner. Inability to meet expenses is never a cause for refusing to accept and process a petition. Should you anticipate difficulties in this regard, please have the Advocate assisting you in preparing your petition contact this office.
A Formal Case is generally referred to as petition for a Declaration of Nullity (Annulment). In reality, the Petitioner is asking the Church to acknowledge there was no valid consent regarding the marriage in question. The Church holds that a previous union is valid and because of Divine Law, a person with a valid union cannot enter into a subsequent marriage. Unless the Petitioner can show the previous union was not valid according to the Church's understanding of the requirements for a valid consent, they are not free to enter into a new marriage. A person is not free to marry unless and until there has been two Affirmative Decisions. The case is first heard by a First Instance Court, such as the Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of Boise.
Once a person has been divorced for a period of time sufficient to adjust to the emotional impact of the change of status in life, a person can approach the local parish advocate to initiate the process. In the diocese of Boise, any priest or deacon may be an advocate for a party. In addition there are several parish based persons who have been trained as Tribunal advocates as well. Any person living within the Diocese of Boise can submit a case. Normally this would be a Catholic; or a non-Catholic desiring to marry a Catholic or desiring to become a Catholic. One of the two parties to the previous marriage must submit a petition. Additionally, if the marriage in question was contracted in the Diocese of Boise, or the Respondent in the case resides here, a case may be submitted to the Diocesan Tribunal.
During the initial meeting within the parish based advocate, the Petitioner will be asked to obtain a copy of the final divorce decree (from the county), marriage license and certificate (From the county), and be given a Tribunal Petition to complete. In addition, the correct current address of the Respondent must be provided. The Respondent must know of the proceedings and the case cannot be initiated without this issue being resolved.
Upon completion of the petition and obtaining the necessary documents, the Petitioner makes a subsequent appointment with their Advocate in the parish. The Advocate will review the documents to ensure that all questions are answered and that the facts presented during the initial meeting are covered in the answers submitted. The Petitioner and the Advocate must sign the petition. It is necessary to include a filing fee of $25.00 with each case submitted. The material is then sent to the Tribunal for processing.