DIOCESAN TRIBUNAL

 

Pastoral Centre

P.O. Box 100

Sydney, Nova Scotia B1P 6G9

Telephone #: 1-902-539-6188

Fax #: 1-902-539-0908

STAFF

Judicial Vicar:: Rev. Dr. John A Barry, J.C.D., Ph.D.,

Deanery Director/Auditor: Elizabeth Wilson - ext. 231

Notary: Patricia MacInnis - ext. 232

 

 

OVERVIEW OF THE TRIBUNAL’S ROLE

 

The Church regards marriage as one of the seven sacraments. It is an intimate covenant of life and love brought into being by the freely exchanged consent of a man and a woman by means of their marriage vows. When a marriage is celebrated according to the form of law by competent persons and where there is no legal impediment, it is said to be valid.

 

Either spouse in the marriage may at some point challenge its validity before an ecclesiastical tribunal. The role of the tribunal is to take evidence from both parties to the marriage and such witnesses as they may choose to put forward.

 

Each is asked to trace the history of the relationship from the outset and to give an opinion on the readiness and capabilities of the parties to assume and fulfill the responsibilities of married life. The evidence collected under oath is then examined by a panel of judges and a decision made either for or against the validity of the marriage.

 

A Declaration of Nullity is a formal recognition that one or more of these elements essential to marriage was missing at the time of consent. Both parties are informed of the decision.

 

                  LINKS:

 

 

 

FIRST STEPS

 

         1.      When you have your final divorce decree, call your parish priest for an appointment. Fill out the preliminary application form. Before contacting the Tribunal for an appointment you will need your baptismal certificate and if possible that of your ex; the marriage certificate and the divorce certificate with the red sticker.

 

         2.      When you come for the interview it will be in an informal atmosphere. It is a one on one situation. No one else is present. There is no cross-examination. A written record will be made of the interview. Your former spouse, known in the proceedings as the Respondent, has the right to be interviewed and if the Respondent exercises this right, then he or she will be interviewed on a day separate from you.

 

         3.      You will need to provide the names of three witnesses. These should be people who knew both parties. It does not matter if they live in other parts of the country or overseas. The tribunal office closest to the witness will be contacted and asked to do the interview. Why witnesses are required is because the rights of two people and the sanctity of marriage are involved, so the tribunal needs sound evidence before it declares a marriage invalid.

 

         4.      The Respondent is sent a summons, a registered letter, after your interview and before the witnesses are contacted. Regardless of who initiates the annulment inquiry, the rights of both parties are equal before Church law. The Church is concerned with was the marriage valid and not who wants the annulment.

 

         5.      When all the evidence is gathered, the case goes for what is known as first judgment. A judge will review the case, prepare a sentence by way of arguments and render a decision as to whether the marriage is valid. Both parties receive a letter on the decision. The case then goes for second instance to the appeal tribunal in Ottawa. The case and the sentence is reviewed and a decision given. It may concur with the first instance or there may be a request for more information. A second letter is sent to both parties. Both the Petitioner and Respondent have the right of appeal in the process.

 

 

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

                  1.      How long will it take?

 

Annulment proceedings can take up to a year. It can be less, it depends on the circumstances of the marriage, the Petitioner’s active participation in his or her case, the cooperation of the witnesses and the workload.

 

                  2.      Does an annulment make my children illegitimate?

 

Divorce did not make your children illegitimate and neither will an annulment. A Declaration of Nullity states that a true marriage bond did not come into being, even though one or both parties tried to the best of their ability to bring it about. Even has a natural right to marriage. The Church tribunal addresses whether it was a sacramental union.

 

                  3.      When can I set the date for my wedding?

 

No priest can accept a booking for a wedding unless and until a Declaration of Nullity is issued. It would create serious difficulties for you if the date you had set came close and no decree had been issued.

 

                  4.      What if my case is urgent?

 

Everyone feels their case is urgent. The tribunal handles the cases in the order in which they are received.

 

                  5.      What is convalidation?

 

Convalidation is a juridical process by which an apparent but invalid marriage is transformed into a true and valid marriage. It is not a blessing on an existing civil relationship which, for example, may have been contracted before a Justice of the Peace. It is contracting marriage anew in the Church.

 

                  6.      What is the cost?

 

A processing fee of $900 is required. This represents a third of the cost to process your request. The remainder of the cost is subsidized by the Diocese of Antigonish. This fee does not have to paid up front or all at once. A $100 deposit is required though at the start. Then you can make minimum payments during the course of the proceedings. If you feel you have financial hardship, you can arrange to meet with the notary and discuss your circumstances.


Application Form