The Metropolitan Tribunal staff offers this information to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Newark whose marriages have ended, and who feel that those marriages were never true and sacramentally valid unions in the eyes of God. We hope that this information will correct common misconceptions about annulments and the annulment process. Above all, we assure those who, because of the heartbreak of an ended marriage, feel alienated from God and the Church, that the Tribunal staff is ready to offer them the comfort of the Lord's healing and reconciling presence. Anyone wishing to file an annulment petition is asked to go to their local parish, or any parish in the Archdiocese, so that someone there may give you the forms and assist you in filling them out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is An Annulment?
Unlike a divorce, which states that a marriage that once existed no longer does so, an annulment is a declaration by the Church that no valid sacramental marriage existed, because there was no true Sacrament of Marriage as the Church teaches it from the beginning.
The Roman Catholic Church considers a marriage valid when:
- It is celebrated in a ceremony which is acceptable according to Church law;
- Both parties are free to marry each other;
- Each partner intends, from the beginning of the marriage, to accept God's plan for married life as taught by the Church;
- Each partner has the physical and psychological ability to live out the consent initially given to the marriage.
If any of these requirements is lacking from the beginning of the marriage, then the Tribunal, acting as the bishop's representative, can declare that marriage invalid.
The fact that a marriage is accepted for consideration by the Tribunal is no guarantee that an annulment will be granted. Grounds for annulment and positive proof must both be established.
Church declarations of nullity have no civil effects. Children born of the marriage maintain their legitimate status.
Who Needs An Annulment?
Anyone (Catholic or Non-Catholic) who was previously married and who wants to remarry in a Catholic ceremony should discuss with the priest who is preparing them the circumstances of their former marriage to determine if an annulment is necessary.
What Is The Metropolitan Tribunal?
The bishop is the chief Teacher and Shepherd for those in his diocese. At times, it is necessary for the bishop to decide whether the teaching and sanctifying mission of the Church is being carried out in accordance with the Gospel message. In doing so, he acts as the chief judge concerning the practice of the Christian faith. Since the bishop cannot act personally as judge in all these matters, he delegates certain individuals as members of the Tribunal, or Church court, to act in his name. Most problems presented to the Tribunal for judgment deal with the validity of the sacrament of Marriage. Persons who believe that their marriages were invalid in the eyes of God and the Church, petition the Tribunal to declare their marriage null and void. The work of the Tribunal mainly involves the process of investigating and arriving at the truth of such petitions.
What Is Involved In The Annulment Process?
The Roman Catholic Church is divided geographically into dioceses. Each Catholic diocese has a Tribunal to judge marriage cases for which it is competent. To be competent to handle a case, a diocese must have one of the following:
- The marriage must have been celebrated within the diocese.
- The Respondent (the former spouse of the person petitioning for the annulment) must reside within the diocese
If only the Petitioner resides within the diocese, permission may be obtained for that diocese to hear the case. The Archdiocese of Newark encompasses the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union. Therefore, for the Archdiocese of Newark to handle an annulment case, either one of the parties to the marriage must live in one of those counties, or the marriage must have been celebrated in one of those counties. Again, every Catholic diocese has a tribunal, and the procedure is similar in each diocese. Therefore much of the following information will be useful wherever a person petitions.