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Home | The Tribunal | Types of Marriage Cases Email, Print, Bookmark and Share

Types of Marriage Cases

On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis issued new law governing Marriage Cases Processes. This law is presented in two documents, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (for the Latin Church) and Mitis et misericors Iesus (for the Eastern Rite Churches), which are available on the Vatican website, in Latin and Italian only. The new law goes into effect December 8, 2015.

The current law governing marriage nullity cases remains in effect through December 7, 2015.
The facts below reflect this current law. New information to include and reflect the new law will be provided here in the near future.

If you believe that you have grounds for invalidity or dissolution of your marriage under the laws of the Roman Catholic Church, your first point of contact should be your local parish or a parish which you find convenient. We encourage you to make an appointment with a parish minister (an Advocate) trained and delegated to assist with the preparation of marriage cases. You will be asked to tell your story to the Advocate, focusing on your religious and family background, the events and circumstances that led to your decision to marry, the wedding, and your married life. The Advocate will listen, help clarify the key issues, determine what type of case you have, and assist with procedural and jurisdiction questions. If it appears that the basis for a case exists, you will receive forms appropriate to the type of case you have. You are the Petitioner in the marriage case(s); your former spouse(s) is/are the Respondent(s).

The following is a brief description of the five types of cases most often handled by the Seattle Metropolitan Tribunal. If you have more than one previous marriage, each must be addressed individually. The circumstances of each marriage will determine the type of case that applies to each individual marriage.

Formal CaseLack of Form CaseLigamen CasePauline PrivilegeFavor of the Faith

Formal Case

A formal case begins with your submission of a petition for a declaration of invalidity, along with answers to a questionnaire, and necessary documents. You should prepare a draft of your answers to the questionnaire and review it with the Advocate in a subsequent meeting. This is a very important step in the preparation of your petition. A well-prepared preliminary deposition can facilitate the processing of the case and save much time in the later stages. Take time and reflect, endeavoring to answer the questions as objectively and completely as possible, avoiding both simple “yes” or “no” answers, and lengthy, unnecessary or irrelevant detail. Your answers preferably should be typed or handwritten clearly.

While working on your questionnaire, you will also wish to gather the necessary religious and civil documents (e.g., baptismal and marriage certificate(s), final divorce decree, etc.). The Advocate will also assist you in completing the petition form and other preliminary documentation. Both as a matter of justice to the other spouse, and to meet the requirements of canon law, the former spouse must be contacted by the Tribunal. You will be asked to provide the names and current addresses of your former spouse and witnesses.

After providing the Advocate with payment of the filing fee for the Tribunal, he/she will mail your case, together with recommendations or comments. (See What are the costs? in the FAQs)

The Tribunal will send a letter acknowledging receipt of your case. It will be assigned a case name and number, and you will be informed of the steps to follow in the canonical process.

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