Marriage is never totally a private affair. It is recognized by society. It has legal existence before the State and the Church. It is a matter of public record; and for Catholics marriage in the Church is the celebration of a sacrament in the presence of the Church's minister and the Christian community.
For that reason, church law requires proof beyond simply the word of the person seeking the decision. Of course the Church will rely heavily upon the word of the spouses. It was their marriage, and no one knows it better than they. The proof beyond the word of the spouses usually comes from the testimony of witnesses - people who knew the spouses during their courtship and marriage and are willing to offer information to the Tribunal. Witnesses may be relatives, friends or acquaintances.
Marriage counselors, psychologists, doctors and other professionals may also act as witnesses; but when they do so, they require a release signed by the person about whom they are giving information. Medical or military, government or judicial records can be admitted as evidence. Sometimes even the transcripts of civil action, especially civil annulment, can offer proof not available anywhere else. In certain instances testimony about the credibility of a spouse (character witness) is acceptable, but it almost never stands alone as proof.
For more information and further assistance, please contact the Tribunal office.
Office of Canonical Services and Tribunal
Diocesan Pastoral Center
PO Box 5147
701 Lawrenceville Road
Trenton, NJ 08638-0147
Rev. Msgr. James G. Innocenzi
Servicios de Canónico/ Tribunal
Judicial Vicar, Rev. Msgr. James G. Innocenzi
Personas que hablan español: Evelyn Aguiar, Nelida Agosto
Número de contacto: 609-406-7411
Each request is as unique as the persons who entered the marriage. While no one can be guaranteed an affirmative decision in advance, a person who thinks his or her marriage was defective from the beginning should be encouraged to request the study of that marriage. Many have already received justice through this process. At times people express the fear of reopening old wounds and hurts by going through a church process of nullity or dissolution. Yet the deeper self-understanding that can come from an honest and searching study of one's broken marriage can heal these wounds and hurts much more profoundly, and provide part of the solid foundation for a lasting and successful marriage in the future.