Application for decree of nullity

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Office of Canonical Services

Mary wood Center 2811 East Villa Real Drive Post Office Box 14195 Orange, California 92863-1595 Phone: (714) 282-3080 Fax: (714) 828-3087



The Catholic Church understands marriage as a "covenant by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, and is by its nature directed toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring" (c. 1055). Furthermore, "marriage is brought about through the consent of the parties, legitimately manifested between persons who are capable according to the law of giving consent" (c. 1057). An annulment is a declaration by the Catholic Church that the consent required for a valid marriage was defective from the beginning. This declaration is made by the Diocesan Tribunal, the judicial office for the Bishop of the diocese. A decision in a marriage nullity case can be made only after a thorough process of obtaining information concerning the family background of each of the parties, the quality and length of their courtship, the history of the marriage, and the remote and immediate causes of the separation and divorce. It is only through a careful examination of the history of the individuals involved and the nature of the relationship together from the beginning of their courtship that the Tribunal can come to a decision in a marriage nullity case.


An application for marriage nullity may be accepted in the Tribunal of Orange if: a) the marriage took place in Orange County; b) the Respondent lives in Orange County; c) the Petitioner lives in Orange County and the Respondent lives in the United States. If none of these conditions apply, please call the Tribunal.


The procedure begins with you, the petitioner, completing the accompanying form and questionnaire regarding the marriage. You return this to the parish priest, who then forwards it to the Tribunal. From that point on, the Tribunal will deal directly with you. When the case is received in the Tribunal, you are sent formal Petition and Mandate forms, to be completed and returned to the Tribunal.


Church law requires that once the Tribunal has received and accepted the petitioner's application, the Tribunal is to contact the respondent and invite the respondent to participate in the proceedings. Should the respondent choose not to participate, the case will nonetheless continue, and the respondent will be notified of the final decision. If the respondent's whereabouts are unknown, the petitioner must explain what efforts have been made to locate the respondent.


Supporting testimony is essential to clearly establish the facts of the case. The Tribunal understands that no one is aware of every difficulty, stress, or trauma in someone's marriage. •However, the information provided by the witnesses should support your statements. We ask that parents, brothers and sisters be submitted as witnesses. Relatives and friends who were aware of some of the difficulties would also be helpful. Counselors or therapists who were seen either during the course of the marriage, or after the marriage ended, are also helpful in their observations, even if the counseling was not marriage counseling. The Tribunal needs as clear a picture as possible of the individuals involved and the nature of their relationship to resolve the case.


Each party will meet with a priest of the Tribunal when all-available information has been gathered. This interview is conducted with each individual separately.

An ecclesiastical annulment must be affirmed by two (2) Tribunals. If an affirmative decision is rendered by this Tribunal, the decision must be confirmed by a Tribunal of Second Instance to be conclusive. The Tribunal of Second Instance will a) review the procedures followed in First Instance, and b) review the proofs of marriage nullity. Once the Second Instance confirms the Orange Tribunal decision, the parties are notified by mail.

Civil Effects

A decree of ecclesiastical nullity has no effects in civil law in this country. A decree of ecclesiastical nullity does not affect the legitimacy of children.

A final decree of civil divorce must be obtained prior to the Tribunal accepting a application for ecclesiastical nullity. A copy of the final decree of civil divorce must accompany your application.


A fee of $700.00 is requested, payable in three (3) installments: a) an initial NON-REFUNDABLE fee of $200.00 when submitting your application; b) a second payment of $250.00 when the instruction of the case is complete, and c) the final payment of $250.00 will become due when case is concluded.

Please note that cases are accepted and handled regardless of finances. The fees that this office collects cover less than half of the real costs involved. The shortfall is subsidized by the generosity of the Bishop and the Catholic people of the Diocese of Orange.

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