Are There Civil Effects to a Church Decree of Invalidity or Dissolution?
There are absolutely no civil effects to a Church Decree of Invalidity in the United States.
Like a civil divorce, it has no effect on the legitimacy of children whatsoever. Moreover, it does not affect property rights, inheritance rights, names, etc.
How Does One Begin the Process?
Contact your local parish office. Either a priest or a trained pastoral minister will make an appointment to meet with you. He or she will then assist you in preparing the case and submitting it to the Tribunal according to the Tribunal guidelines. You will be given the forms and instructions you need at the time. The Tribunal will respond according to the type of case. To locate a Catholic parish in our diocese so that you could speak with a parish priest or pastoral minister about beginning a case, or to obtain baptismal records, visit our diocesan directory.
Note: information on Catholic Church law is of a general nature and not intended to cover the technical details of any given case.
How Long Does the Entire Process Take?
The Tribunal will process each and every case as efficiently as possible, but it is impossible to predict the length of time because of a number of variable factors.
No two cases are the same. One case may be completed in several months. Another may take a year or longer.
Therefore, no guarantees can be given either as to the length of time the process may take, or that a given case will result in an affirmative decision regarding invalidity or dissolution.
Documentary cases normally are completed very quickly.
An Ordinary Process may take longer because of the time required to obtain the testimony of witnesses.
Is There a Fee?
The ministry of the tribunal is free to those who seek it. Funding for nullity cases heard in this tribunal is normally covered by the Diocesan Services Appeal (DSA). We thank you for your generous support of the DSA. The priests and ministers who assist petitioners in our diocese do not charge a fee for their services.
The actual cost of a case in the Ordinary Process may exceed $2000. Donations to offset expenses are always gratefully accepted. Any checks should be made out to the Diocese of Lansing Tribunal.
The fees charged by the Holy See are beyond the control of the tribunal and the diocese, and its fees are subject to change. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charges petitioners for dissolution in favor of the faith a fee of approximately $440 (as of October 2012). An appeal made to the Roman Rota, rather than to the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Detroit, would cost the appealing party about $1000.
What is a Marriage?
The Church's Canon law says of marriage: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament For this reason, a matrimonial contract cannot validly exist between baptized persons unless it is also a sacrament." The Church teaches that according to the law of God, marriage is by its nature a permanent union. Therefore, the Church's law presumes the validity of a marriage unless the contrary is proven in a Tribunal.
What is the Tribunal?
The Tribunal is a court established and regulated by the laws of the Catholic Church. It is directed by the Bishop of Lansing. By his authority it administers justice, vindicates rights and assists in the pastoral care of the people of the diocese. It is supervised by the Judicial Vicar and staffed by other qualified personnel, in particular canon lawyers, whom the bishop appoints. It conducts ecclesiastical trials according to Church law. A major function of the Tribunal is to investigate the validity or invalidity of marriages. Whenever Catholics or non Catholics have been previously married, this must be done to establish whether they may enter a new marriage in the Catholic Church. Thus it assists persons by finding if a declaration of invalidity or dissolution might be possible. The Tribunal uses both the administrative and judicial procedures outlined in the Code of Canon Law to determine the invalidity of a marriage or to dissolve it. It seeks, in the words of Pope Pius XI, "to care for the dignity of marriage; to work for the good of persons."
When is Marriage in the Catholic Church Allowed?
If a Declaration of Invalidity or a Dissolution is granted, the usual procedure of preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church takes place with the local parish priest.
If a marriage is declared invalid due to a specific cause, a second marriage cannot be permitted unless it is apparent that the cause which invalidated the first marriage has been resolved.
Please note that permission to remarry in the Catholic Church can in no way be guaranteed before the completion of the entire process. No date for a future marriage can be set before then. The Tribunal cannot be responsible for arbitrary promises or scheduling by any priest, deacon, religious or lay person.
Both parties to a proposed Catholic marriage must be free to marry. Someone who has received a decree of invalidity cannot marry someone who has an unresolved prior marriage.
Note: information is of a general nature and not intended to cover the technical details of any given case.