The ordinary canonical process for a declaration of nullity is complex and can seem overwhelming. The process normally takes between 12-18 months because of this complexity. The following chart lists the nine steps of the process and explains the meaning of each step. There are two required face-to-face meetings throughout the process. Also, seven letters are sent out throughout the process. The timing of these letters is indicated in red type.

Before submitting your petition, please have your pastor or deacon review and sign the petition.

1 – Initial review of the petition

As soon as petition is submitted, the Tribunal evaluates:

  1. Whether the petition is completed
  2. Whether the allegation has merit
2 – Acceptance or rejection of petition If A and B are present, the petition will be accepted.  If they are absent, the petition will be rejected.   This is the first letter which will be sent.
3 – Determination of the grounds and constitution of Tribunal Shortly after acceptance, the focus of the investigation is determined from input given by both parties and the Defender of the Bond.  Typically, this will require both parties to schedule a short meeting, separately, with the judge.  This is the first face-to-face meeting.  After this has been determined the second letter will be sent.
4 – Instruction begins Instruction is the phase when the testimony is collected from the parties and the witnesses.  Testimony is given in a judicial exam.  A judicial exam is a face-to-face interview with the judge, in the presence of a notary.  The petitioner must make an appointment for a judicial exam.  This is the second face-to-face meeting.  If this is not possible, then written testimony must be given.  The witnesses must also present their testimony.  At the beginning of instruction, the third letter will be sent.
5 – Publication of the Acts of the Case Once all testimony has been collected, both parties can review all of the testimony.  This is the fourth letter that will be sent.
6 – Closure of the case: Defenses and observations are submitted After publication, the case is officially closed.  At this time both parties can submit final observation.  This is the fifth letter that will be sent.
7 – Observations of the Defender of the Bond The Defender of the Bond reviews the case and writes a report for the judge.  The Defender of the Bond’s job is to point out any reasons why the marriage should not be declared invalid.
8 – Judge’s definitive sentence is published The judge considers all of the evidence, and the Defender of the Bond’s report, and writes his decision in a Definitive Sentence.  This is the sixth letter which will be sent.
9 – Execution of the sentence If no appeal is lodged by either of the parties or the Defender of the Bond, the parties will be declared free to contract new nuptials.  After ratification or appeal a seventh and final letter will be sent.