There are naturally some expenses in processing a nullity case. Costs are not the same in every Tribunal but it is customary for a Tribunal to follow the guidelines provided by the Bishops of the country in question. In Ireland the Episcopal Conference (the Irish Bishops) recommends a figure of 600 Euro, excluding the expenses of any expert who may be involved in the case. Those who can pay are asked to make a full contribution but those who can only pay some of the costs are asked to contribute what is within their budget. Those who cannot contribute anything may be assisted by the Tribunal. The ability to pay all or none of the costs has no effect on the process or its outcome.
Is it necessary to obtain a Divorce to apply for an annulment?
Prior to applying for an annulment it is not necessary to have a Civil Divorce Absolute or a Civil annulment.
If the marriage is declared invalid does that make the children illegitimate?
Children of a marriage which was presumed valid until proved otherwise are unaffected by the declaration of the nullity of the marriage. Their legitimate status remains unchanged as they are children of what is called a putative marriage....a marriage entered into in good faith even if subsequently declared invalid.
Is the process confidential?
There are certain strict rules about who may have access to the information gathered in a nullity investigation. The main parties, i.e. the petitioner and the respondent, have the right to inspect the contents of the nullity file before it is given to either a nominated Advocate or the Defender of the Bond and the Judges. Witnesses have no right of access to what others have said, only the main parties have that right. No Tribunal can guarantee or claim that the nullity process is absolutely confidential, i.e. similar to what passes between a priest and a person in the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation.
How long does it take?
It very much depends on the nature of the case, the willingness of the parties and the witnesses. The circumstances of each Tribunal may also have an effect on the duration of the investigation or the timing of the outcome...depending principally on the availability of qualified and trained personnel to the Tribunal in question.
What happens if my ex partner does not want to co-operate?
There is a moral responsibility on all parties to co-operate in a nullity investigation but sometimes that moral responsibility is not fulfilled by one party. If a party ignores all correspondence in the case he / she will be declared ABSENT from the investigation and informed of the consequences of their inaction (i.e. that they will have no right to inspect the nullity file before the case is judged etc). A party can always change their mind about taking part but a Tribunal will always try to encourage full active participation of both parties in a nullity investigation.
Who makes the decision and can I know the reasons?
The Judge(s) originally assigned to the case when the petition is received normally render the final decision at 1st Instance. Sometimes a change is made to the panel of Judges for practical reasons which will always be communicated to the parties i.e. the petitioner and the respondent, who, in turn, may raise objections to the makeup of the panel for good reason (e.g. a party is a friend of a nominated Judge etc ). Participating parties can and must know the reasons for a decision in a nullity case and a copy of the decision (with all reasons) will be given to their nominated Advocate, or the parties themselves or, in particular cases and to protect the integrity of the process, parties will be invited to read the decision at the Tribunal office.
Do all cases have to go to Rome?
No, only in those cases where 1st Instance and 2nd Instance have reached different decisions e.g. a case gets an affirmative at 1st Instance but a negative at 2nd Instance. To resolve the dilemma the case may go the the Roman Rota where a final decision which will agree with 1st Instance or 2nd Instance will bring the matter to a definitive conclusion against which there is no further appeal or recourse.
How can a marriage be invalid if there are children?
Having one or several children does not bring a marriage into being. Valid consent brings a marriage into being.
Can I apply to any Tribunal anywhere in the world?
A person can only introduce a nullity petition to (a) the tribunal of the place where the marriage took place, (b) to the tribunal of the place where his/her estranged spouse is currently living, (c) to the place of residence of the respondent IF both parties live within the same Episcopal Conference area and only after the Judicial Vicar of the place of residence of the respondent agrees having first consulted the respondent and finally (d) the tribunal in which most of the proofs are to be gathered and then only after the Judicial vicar of the place where the respondent is resident gives his agreement having first consulted the respondent.
I've heard Irish tribunals are more strict than others, is that true?
Sometimes the impression is given that Irish tribunals are more traditional and slow to give affirmative decisions in nullity cases. This is not the case. However, it must be acknowledged that the Holy See and the Pope himself have reminded all Tribunals that decisions must be based on the consistent jurisprudence of the Roman Rota and not a particular Tribunal's particular understanding of how laws on marriage are to be interpreted. The Law also proposes that cases at 1st instance should ideally be decided within a twelve month period. However, given the current availability of trained and qualified staff cases in the Armagh Regional Marriage Tribunal normally take more than twelve months to process.