It is the Tribunal's job to obtain and review information about a particular marriage which has ended in divorce to find out if that marriage can be declared invalid.
There is no attempt in the study of a marriage to impute guilt or to punish persons. On the contrary, the intention of the annulment procedure is to serve one's conscience and spirit and to bring persons back to the Eucharist and participation in the community of the Church.
Canon law (Church law) calls for the existence of a Tribunal in every diocese of the world. The Tribunal and all of the Roman Catholic Church of Grand Island is under the direction of the Bishop and is supervised by his delegate, the Vicar Judicial (Chief Judge). He, together with a staff of specially trained and experienced priests, religious and lay persons, offers assistance to persons who request that the church study a particular marriage in order to determine whether that marriage can be declared invalid.
Beginning the Process
Contact a priest (preferably one in your parish) and he will make an appointment to meet with you to find out if the Grand Island Tribunal has or can obtain jurisdiction to review your marriage.
Jurisdiction, according to the Church law, is based on the place of marriage, the residence of the other party (the respondent), or the residence of the requresting party (the petitioner), if the respondent can be contacted.
If the Tribunal of Grand Island has jurisdiction for your case, you will be asked to fill out both an application and a questionnaire. In addition to giving pertinent information, you will be asked to write a personality profile of yourself and a history of your courtship and marriage according to a set of guidelines that will be provided.
The application and questionnaire are not to be taken lightly. It is very important that the party requesting a decree of nullity (the petitioner) provide as much information as possible in the application and questionnaire. This testimony provides the basis for the case. Your parish priest or the Tribunal staff are available to assist you with completing the application.
Certain documents are required in every formal marriage nullity case. You will be asked to provide:
These documents must be sent to the Tribunal before work can begin on your case.
Church law requires witnesses to assist the Tribunal in obtaining a deeper understanding of you, your spouse, your marriage and its breakdown. You will be asked to provide the names of witnesses who will complete questionnaires provided by the Tribunal. The Tribunal and staff will be happy to assist your witnesses.
Sometimes doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, priests, ministers, rabbis, etc, have been consulted before or during a marriage in order to assist a person or couple. These special witnesses may be helpful to the Tribunal staff as they review the study of a marriage.
If a special witness has been consulted any time before or during a union, please provide the complete name and address of the professional. After you have signed a release provided by the Tribunal, the professional may then provide confidential information that may be of great value in the study of a marriage.
Please list witnesses who are WILLING and ABLE to give us information.
Processing a Formal Marriage Case
For all types of marriage cases, an application form must be completed. Your priest can assist you in obtaining and preparing the proper forms. Along with the formal application, certified copies of marriage and divorce decrees and newly annotate baptismal records (for Catholic parties only) must be submitted.
After reviewing both the application and the questionnaire, and jurisdiction for the case has been verified, an acknowledgement letter is sent to both the petitioner and to the respondent.
A trained member of the Tribunal staff will be named to work on the case. He or she may contact you for more details concerning your marriage, requests for more witnesses, or additional pertinent information.
Trained members of the Tribunal will be assigned as Procurator for the petitioner and the respondent. In addition, another member of the Tribunal will be named Defender of the Bond. The Defender of the Bond has the responsibility for arguing the validity of your marriage. This is to guarantee equal rights for you, your spouse and the Church. An appointed judge from this diocese will formally hear your case.
After receiving both the application and the questionnaire, all the required documents, and the marriage history, the Tribunal will contact witnesses for further information. It is essential that witnesses can provide testimony from the beginning of the relationship in order for the Tribunal to arrive at a decision regarding the validity of the marriage.
After the formal acceptance, the case is reviewed and prepared for the Judge and the Defender of the Bond. Once a case is fully prepared, the Judge can prepare his final ruling.
Fairness demands that we handle cases in the order that petitions are received; however, cases will not necessarily be completed in the order received. It can happen that some cases are completed earlier because witnesses in these cases submitted their testimony promptly and no difficulties were met. It can also happen that some cases last much longer because serious difficulties demand longer time to resolve.
Marriage cases average 12 to 18 months to complete. The Tribunal will indicate some approximate time between stages for your case. However, no one can offer any guarantees about the length of time needed for any particular case; any and all indications given are approximate.
Generally, if there is no problem with your case, we will not be contacting you. However, you may call the Tribunal office anytime to check on the status of your case.
If enough information has been gathered to prove the nullity of the marriage, the judge of the Grand Island Tribunal (the First Instance Court) will issue his decision for the case.
Then both the ruling and the observations of the Defender of the Bond are sent to the Second Instance Court in Omaha for review. (The Second Instance Court is part of the Omaha Archdiocese Tribunal). This review requires approximately thirty to forty-five days.
When the Second Instance Court ratifies the ruling of the Grand Island Tribunal, both the petitioner and the respondent will be notified of the outcome by mail.
If the Grand Island judge denies an application for an annulment, his decision is final. However, in some instances, the petitioner may submit the names of more witnesses and may submit more information, and the case may be reinstated to be judged again using the extra testimonies.
It is essential for the Tribunal to have a current address and contact information for the former spouse. The Tribunal will contact the respondent. If you wish, you may contact him/her, but it is not required.
If a marriage is declared invalid due to a specific cause, a second marriage cannot be permitted until the cause which invalidated the first marriage has been removed.
When a decree of nullity is granted and there are no restrictions attached to it, the usual procedure of preparations for marriage in the Roman Catholic Church may be started with one's local priest.
Please note that permission to remarry can in no way be guaranteed before the completion of the annulment process. No plans for future marriage should be made until the completion of the annulment. If marriage plans have been made, consider postponing them until the annulment process is complete. No priest will perform a wedding until the annulment is 'in hand.'
The Tribunal cannot be responsible for arbitrary promises or guarantees made by any priest, religious or lay person(s).
At the conclusion of the annulment process, a fee of $200 will be asked of the person who introduced the case (the petitioner). This fee is in deference to the people of the Diocese of Grand Island, who subsidize the Tribunal budget through their contributions. We believe it is fair that those who use the services of the Tribunal assist in bearing this financial burden.
If for any reason one cannot afford to pay all of the fee at one time, payments can be arranged.
If your case qualifies as Defect of Form, the fee is only $25. A Ligamen is $50.
At no time should financial consideration discourage or stop any person from exercising the right to receive a just hearing from the Church.
One's ability to pay a fee in no way affects the progress or outcome of a request. Therefore, no payment in part or in full will be accepted by the Tribunal until the completion of a case.
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