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Questions and Answers

Many people have questions on the catholic faith and issues related to our faith. This section will attempt to answer those questions.

Q. I divorced my husband five years ago, and now would like to find out if I can have my marriage annulled. What does it involve? Also, how much does it cost?

A. An annulment is an official declaration of the Catholic Church that one or more of the conditions necessary for a valid, sacramental marriage were never met.

To begin the process, you should contact your diocesan tribunal, the ecclesiastical court of the Church. Usually, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire tracing the history of your courtship, marriage, and the breakdown of the relationship. Your answers will be reviewed to determine if grounds for annulment exist.

Some cases are fairly straightforward and involve a simple process: It could be easily proven if, for example, you had entered your marriage while still validly married to someone else. Other cases, such as those involving coercion, defective consent, fraud, or psychic incapacity to assume and fulfill the essential obligations of marriage, are more complex and require a more formal process.

If it is judged that grounds for annulment do exist and that the case can probably be proved, the other party is notified and given a chance to respond. Evidence is gathered, witnesses assembled, the case is heard by the tribunal, and the judges decide if the evidence for nullity is persuasive or not. All affirmative decisions for nullity are automatically reviewed by a higher court. If the decision is confirmed, the annulment is granted.

If the decision is negative, the annulment is not granted, you have a couple of options. You can challenge the decision on procedural grounds or, even if the decision is procedurally correct, you may appeal it if you believe it to be unjust.

This process - and my description is greatly simplified - can take many months. The cost of an annulment differs from diocese to diocese and depends, to a certain degree, on the length of time involved. Money, however, is never an impediment to the annulment process. Even if you cannot afford the fees, your case will be heard if you have ground for annulment. Approximately 60,000 annulments are granted every year in the United States.

If you are unsure of which Archdiocese or Diocese you live in, please let us know the City and State you reside in and we will let you know who to contact .

This month's answer was provided by Rev. John Patrick Bertolucci from his latest book, Questions and Answers About the Faith.

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