What is the Tribunal
The Office of the Tribunal does research on questions of church law and does the research and decision-making regarding marriage annulments.
The Diocese of Wichita Tribunal serves to adjudicate all petitions for marriage cases according to the norms established by The Code of Canon Law (1983), the Vatican Instruction Dignitas Connubii (2005), and the recent motu proprio of Pope Francis, Mitis Iudex Dominus Jesus (2015).
Frequently Asked Questions
The presumption of the Church is that all marriages, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are valid unless canonically proven invalid. Furthermore, the Church teaches that every valid marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament (canon 1055 §2), and thus considered a permanently binding union until the death of one of the spouses. Although not every marriage is a sacrament (e.g., when at least one party is not baptized) the very fabric of society demands that every marriage be presumed valid unless proven otherwise.
An Annulment, or a Declaration of Invalidity, is a statement made by the Church Tribunal stating there is evidence that for some reason the marriage investigated may not have been a valid and sacramental marriage. If one has been married and divorced, they must submit a case and obtain this Declaration of Invalidity before they may be allowed to enter into a new marriage in the Catholic Church. The annulment has no civil effect and it does not affect the status of children. It is for the Church to determine if a person is free to marry in the Catholic Church.
No. There is a significant difference between a divorce and a Declaration of Invalidity. A divorce is a civil document that terminates all civil bonds of a marriage. The Catholic Church does not recognize a civil divorce as an end to a marriage. The Catholic Church holds that all marriages are valid bonds in the eyes of God and the Church, unless it is proven otherwise. A divorce concerns itself with the end of a civil union between a man and a woman. It settles questions in terms of financial standings and child custody issues from a legal perspective.
An Annulment, or a Declaration of Invalidity, is a statement made by the Church Tribunal stating there is evidence that for some reason the marriage investigated may not have been a valid and sacramental marriage.
Either party to a marriage can apply for a Declaration of Invalidity from the Tribunal. You do not have to be of the Catholic faith to file for a Declaration of Invalidity. All people have a right to ask the Church to hear their case. When seeking a Declaration of Invalidity, it is Church policy that one must wait for a period of at least one year after a civil divorce has been granted in hopes reconciliation would have every chance to take place.
The Catholic Church has specific rules for the process of filing for a Declaration of Invalidity. One such rule indicates every effort must be made to hear both sides in each case. The petitioner (the person requesting the annulment) has the right to file their case and the respondent (the ex-spouse of the petitioner) also has the right to have their side heard. The procedural rules require the Tribunal allow a certain amount of time for the parties and their witnesses to respond. The process usually takes from 9 to 18 months. We cannot guarantee that a case will be finished by any particular date.
Yes. It is mandatory that the former spouse be aware of the process and given the opportunity to respond. A mailing address for the former spouse must be provided. If the location of the former spouse is truly not known, provisions can be made for the case to proceed. This can only be done after a diligent search has been made as to the whereabouts of the former spouse.
The annulment process begins with a meeting with the parish priest. He will begin preparing the forms necessary to file for a Declaration of Invalidity. It is important to provide as much detail as possible in these forms. The more information provided, the better chance a just decision will be reached.
The Tribunal must have several documents to determine a case. We must have a copy of the marriage license, a copy of the final divorce decree and if you are a Catholic we must have a recent copy of your baptismal certificate. If you do not have a copy of your marriage license or divorce decree, it can be obtained by contacting either the county or the state in which the marriage took place. Usually county courthouses are very helpful in providing this information. If you were married in a Catholic Church, you may obtain a marriage certificate from the Catholic Church in which the marriage took place. A recent copy of the baptismal certificate may be obtained by calling the Church where you were baptized. Your parish priest can help you obtain these church documents.
There is a $40 filing fee required at the time the Declaration of Invalidity is filed, and the fee for the annulment process is currently $150.00. There are expenses for tribunal employees, postage, phone and other office related expenses. Costs not covered by the fee are paid for by parishes practicing United Catholic Stewardship. If this fee is a hardship, provisions can be made through the priest you are working with to offset the expenses.
Only the petitioner and the respondent have the right to review testimony. If the petitioner or the respondent wish to view the testimony, they must do so in the Tribunal Office. The tribunal personnel are sworn to secrecy and cannot reveal the content of cases.
You will be asked to provide detailed information regarding your childhood and questions regarding your state of mind at the time of marriage. You will also be asked questions regarding the early part of your married life which will provide insight into circumstances at the time of the union. For example, you will be asked if there was a problem with alcohol or drugs during the courtship or marriage. The witnesses will be asked similar questions but generally their questions will not be as specific, realizing often only the petitioner and respondent know all the facts of the case.
We ask witnesses be people that would have been familiar with you and your ex-spouse at the time of the courtship and wedding. We ask for the names of parents as witnesses and then whomever else you would like to list. Witnesses should be siblings, relatives, friends, clergy or anyone who would be able to testify on your behalf. In all cases children are discouraged as being used as witnesses.