Curia and Tribunal

The Curia and Tribunal Department

Officialis
Rev Brian Murphy BA JCL MCL

Vice-Officialis
Rev Thomas Wood PhB STB JCL

Assistants to the Officialis
Rev Atli Gunnar Jonsson STL
Sr Martine Neill SND MA(Canon Law)
Sr Patricia Redgrave CP

Chancellor and Defender of the Bond
Rev Aidan Prescott BSc STB HEL JCL MA MCL

Defender of the Bond
Rev Mgr George Mooney JCL

Promotor of Justice
Rev Stephen Maughan JCL BA (Diocese of Middlesbrough)

Tribunal Administrator
Miss Maureen Stigberg

Contact Details

Archdiocesan Curia
Centre for Evangelisation
Croxteth Drive
Liverpool
L17 1AA
Tel: 0151 522 1012
Fax:0151 522 1014

Metropolitan Tribunal
Centre for Evangelisation
Croxteth Drive
Liverpool
L17 1AA
Tel: 0151 522 1061 
Fax: 0151 522 1062
Email: m.stigberg@rcaol.co.uk

What is an Annulment? Why is it Necessary?

An annulment is a judgment by the Church that a presumed valid marriage, which ended in divorce, was lacking from the very beginning an essential element or ingredient required for valid marital consent.  Consent may be proven defective if either (or both) spouses did not intend a permanent, faithful union or refused to have children.  Consent can also be invalid due to some psychological impairment which prevented one or both spouses from fulfilling the obligations of marriage.

An annulment does not deny that a marriage existed.  It only states that this putative (thought-to-be) marriage, which may have been entered into sincerely and with good will, may not have been valid because of defective consent.

A Church annulment does not influence civil laws in England.  Matters such as the legitimacy of children, property rights or child support can in no way be affected by a Church declaration of nullity.

An annulment is necessary because the Church believes that marriage was intended by God to be a sacred and permanent bond.  Any divorced person seeking to marry again in the Catholic Church must first petition the Church for a declaration of freedom to marry based on an investigation of the previous union.  This investigation seeks to determine whether or not valid marital consent was exchanged and whether or not both spouses were capable of marriage, i.e. forming the covenant of faithful and permanent love that the Church defines marriage to be.
 
An annulment may also be sought for personal solace, even if a person has no plans to remarry.

The Annulment Process

1.          A completed divorce decree or civil annulment decree should first be obtained.  The Catholic Church always maintains hope for reconciliation within the marriage until a divorce decree shows that the marriage is legally dissolved.

2.         The next step is to contact the Tribunal who will take some preliminary information and then offer you an appointment with a member of the Tribunal staff.  You will need to provide the last known address of your former spouse as the Tribunal is required by Church law to inform that person of this proceeding and give him/ her the opportunity to present testimony.  At no time will you be required to meet with your former spouse. If he/ she refuses to participate in this investigation, the case can still continue.

3.         You will be assisted by a member of the Tribunal in completing some forms and will then be asked to submit a report (or testimony) including details of your family background and that of your former spouse, the courtship and engagement period, details of the wedding ceremony, the history of the marriage itself and the causes that lead to the breakdown of the marriage.  Your case will then be given to a panel of Judges to see if they think it should progress to a formal hearing.  Should the Judges decline to accept your case you do have the right to appeal against this decision with the Metropolitan Tribunal of Westminster.

4.         Additional witness testimonies will then be required, these can come from family and/ or friends who knew you and your former spouse prior to the wedding.  The witnesses will be interviewed by specially trained staff.  Normally at least four witnesses are usually required and the parents of the applicant should be included in the nominated witnesses wherever possible.

5.         Once all of the testimonies relevant to your case have been collected, you, and your former partner (if they are taking part), will be invited to make an appointment to read through the evidence and comment on it. Please be assured that interviews are conducted in an informal way and support is offered throughout.

6.         After a decision has been rendered regarding your petition, you will be informed of the outcome.  Either of the parties or an official of the Tribunal called the Defender of the Bond may appeal against the decision made in which case the case will be referred to the Metropolitan Tribunal of Westminster.  It is only necessary to have one positive decision in favour of nullity in order for a decree of nullity to be issued

7.         It must be noted that plans for a Catholic wedding in church or convalidation cannot be made until the Tribunal process has concluded and any pre-marital or post-annulment requirements – such as counselling – have been fully met.  
 
On September 8, 2015, Pope Francis announced a major reform of the Catholic Church’s procedures by which a marriage is declared null. This reform is outlined in his letter, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Gentle Judge, the Lord Jesus), which affects the Latin Code of Canon Law, and in a second letter, Mitis et Misericors Iesus (The Meek and Merciful Jesus), which affects the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. On December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the changes in Church law went into effect.

The Tribunal here can accept a case – if any of the following applies: if you live within the Archdiocese of Liverpool or if the other party to the marriage lives here, or if the wedding took place here.

Pope Francis does not want the cost of the process to stop anyone from undertaking it and has called on tribunals worldwide to limit fees for administrative costs. Indeed a person does not “pay for an annulment.” Rather, fees are requested to pay for the expenses associated with the procedure: i.e., the printing of documents, utility bills, postage and the wages of tribunal personnel.  Currently, the Tribunal requests that the petitioner pay, if possible, £220, a small percentage of the real costs incurred, with payments being made over a period of time. This Tribunal has never rejected a person’s petition because he or she has been unable to pay the entire amount or even a portion of it.

Pope Francis has also initiated an abbreviated procedure in which some of the more time-consuming formalities of the ordinary process can be omitted without compromising the integrity of the process. Keep in mind that three strict conditions must be met before this process could be considered: 1) Both spouses have to petition for the declaration of nullity together, or the other party must at least in written form consent to it. 2) All relevant information is readily available. 3) The information submitted clearly demonstrates that the marriage is null. (The Judicial Vicar would determine whether or not all three criteria are met.) Because of the required conditions for the Abbreviated Process, it is believed that the majority of cases presented to our tribunal will continue to follow the ordinary process.

An automatic appeal or verification of the initial affirmative decision by the first tribunal (whether this is in the ordinary or the abbreviated process) is no longer required. For the majority of cases, this will now shorten the amount of time it takes to process a case. However, the right to appeal any decision made by a tribunal remains intact.

Please feel free to contact the Tribunal office for any further information you require and we will be pleased to help you in any way that we can.