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 11 steps of the process and explains the meaning of each step. Also, there are seven notifications sent out throughout the process. As the Petitioner, you must reply to these notifications either personally or through your Case Sponsor.  Each letter will indicate how many days you have to reply to a specific notification.

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


1. The process starts at your local parish. Please contact your pastor or deacon to guide you through the process

Your pastor or deacon reviews your application to make sure everything is completed, and all the pertinent documents are included.  Please ask your pastor or deacon to serve as your Procurator/Advocate. He will provide helpful guidance along the process. 

2. Initial review of the application

Once the application is submitted to the Tribunal, the Judge evaluates whether the petition has merits.

3. Acceptance or rejection

(First notification)

Please know that the Respondent must be notified of this process, thus we need you to provide a good mailing address for him/her. The lack of the Respondent’s participation does not prevent the case from proceeding.

If the application has merits, the Judicial Vicar accepts it and notifies, in writing, the Respondent and the Defender of the Bond. The Respondent has 15 days to respond to this citation, and possibly an additional 15 days.

If the application is rejected, the Petitioner is notified in writing of this rejection.

4. Constitution of the Court and Formulation of the Grounds

(Second notification)

Once the Defender of the Bond and the Respondent reply to the notification of acceptance, the Judicial Vicar constitutes the Court, formulates the grounds under which the case will be adjudicated, and remits the case to the Ordinary Process, or to the process before the Bishop.

5. Instruction

(Third notification)

Once the Parties respond to the notification of the Constitution of the Court and the formulation of the grounds, the Instruction of the case begins. This is the phase during which testimony is taken from the Parties and the witnesses. During this phase, if written testimony is insufficient, it will be absolutely necessary for the Petitioner and/or the Respondent to come to the tribunal for an interview. At times, some of the witnesses will be required to come to the tribunal for a meeting as well.

6. Evaluation by the Court Expert

When a case falls under canon 1095, §1-3; the evaluation of a psychological expert will be necessary. The Petitioner will be required to cover the fees of this evaluation.

7. Publication of the Acts

(Fourth notification)

Once all the testimony has been gathered, both Parties will have the opportunity to review the Acts of the case and to add any additional testimony if they wish to do so.

8. Conclusion of the case

(Fifth notification)

Once there is nothing further to add, the decree of the conclusion is issued. The Parties, their Procurator/Advocates, and the Defender of the Bond will be invited to submit their final observations.

9. Animadversions of the Defender of the Bond

The Defender of the Bond has the right to review the case last and to present any reasonable arguments that can be made in favor of the bond and to explain why the marriage should not be declared null.

10. Judge’s definitive sentence

(Sixth notification)

Once the animadversions of the Defender of the Bond are submitted, the Judge studies the case and writes his definitive sentence, and the Parties are notified of the decision of the Judge.  Any of the interested Parties may come to the Tribunal to read the sentence.

11.  Execution of the sentence

(Seventh notification)

If no one appeals an affirmative decision within the time limit of 15 days of the notification, the Parties will be declared free to contract new canonical nuptials.

If an appeal is lodged, the Acts of the case will be transmitted to the tribunal of appeals, either the Archdiocese of Denver or the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.