Any spouse who wishes to do so may seek a church annulment or dissolution of his or her own marriage. A person may seek an annulment in the tribunal of a Catholic diocese within whose boundaries the marriage took place, the tribunal of the diocese in which the former spouse resides, the tribunal where the person seeking the decision has a permanent residence (provided both parties live in the United States), or the tribunal where the proof would be found. In some cases, the tribunal where the former spouse lives has to give consent. A dissolution of marriage that was not consummated or was not a sacrament is usually sought through the Catholic diocese where the person seeking it lives.
In the Diocese of Trenton, a person submits this request or petition through a local parish priest or deacon or through one of the advocates approved for this work by the diocesan bishop. The Tribunal provides forms for this purpose. These forms are available from the tribunal as well as from Catholic parishes of the Diocese of Trenton. One should have the assistance of the local parish priest, deacon or annulment advocate in completing the forms. The services of approved advocates may be obtained through one's parish or the diocesan Office of Family Life.
In filling out the required form, which is called the petition,one should take care to answer all the items truthfully and as completely as possible. Extra sheets of paper can always by used and included in the petition. For some petitions, a "personal history" is also needed. The priest, deacon or advocate assisting the petitioner can advise whether or not the personal history is required for that petition. The request should be typewritten, signed and dated by the petitioner and forwarded to the Tribunal together with the required documents and filing stipend of fifty dollars ($50) payable to the Diocese of Trenton. The person who sends this material to the Tribunal should be sure to keep a copy of it.
With the petition, the petitioner (the person submitting the request) needs to include a baptismal record (or birth certificate if no baptismal record can be obtained), a record of the marriage in question, and a record of the civil divorce or civil annulment by which this marriage was legally ended. If an advocate is involved, the petitioner must designate the advocate in a signed letter. Without a completed petition form, the required documents, and the petitioner's signature and date of the request, a petition cannot be accepted at the Tribunal and will be returned to the sender.
Within two weeks of its arrival at the Tribunal office, a complete petition will be assigned to a staff member, who will accept or reject the petition and notify the persons involved. A rejected petition can be appealed, or else corrected and submitted again to the Tribunal. An accepted petition goes through several stages: determining the grounds on which it will be studied, obtaining the necessary testimonies and other proofs, and review by experts if the grounds involve the behavioral sciences. The petitioner will ordinarily be interviewed at the Tribunal, and the priest, deacon or advocate who submits the case may be asked to help in gathering some of the proofs. After everything requested has been received the petitioner and the former spouse may be allowed to come to the Tribunal office to read those parts of the file which are not restricted, and to add information. When neither petitioner nor the former spouse have anything else to add, the case will be concluded and a decision given.
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.