Fr. Ralph D’Elia

The Catholic Church reaches out to the divorced to offer support and healing. Divorce is unique among life experiences. The ending of a marriage is a traumatic experience. The adjustment which follows may be positive or negative, but it is always difficult. Divorce is a process not an event.

 One of the ways the Church offers to help people achieve healing and closure is through a declaration of nullity or an annulment. A Church tribunal, a Catholic Church court, declares that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law did not satisfy at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.

The Church presumes that every marriage between a man and a woman who are free to marry, (Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or Non-Believer.) to be a valid marriage until the opposite is proven. Therefore, unless the ex-spouse has died, anyone who is divorced, Catholic or non-Catholic, needs to obtain a Catholic declaration of nullity before re-marrying in the Catholic Church. The person submits a petition for declaration of nullity to the diocesan tribunal. The tribunal process seeks to determine if something essential was missing from the relationship from the moment of consent at the time of the wedding. If an essential element was missing, the Church can declare that according to Church Law the marriage was not valid.

For information about the process of annulment, please contact Fr. Ralph D’Elia at 727-347-9702 or ralphdelia@cathedralofstjude.org

Resources: To obtain additional helpful information about the tribunal and the procedure to submit a petition for a declaration of nullity, click on links below to download documents containing explanations.

  • An  Introduction to the Tribunal and Its Cases offers a brief overview of the ministry of justice and truth offered by the Office of the Tribunal.
  • The Tribunal publishes a Brochure that summarizes the process of petitioning for a declaration of nullity.
  • The Catholic Church uses a lot of terms derived from Latin. These words sometimes confuse people trying to get through the annulment process. Terms to Know provides a list of key terms used in the Tribunal office
  • There are variety of misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding the sacrament of marriage and the annulment process. This listing of Frequently Asked Questions attempts to clarify these concepts and debunk some of the myths surrounding them.
  • The Tribunal classifies its cases into two categories: Formal and Informal. The timing varies for each of these types of cases. The process for Formal Cases is described in this document.
    • The Petitioner is the person who begins the annulment proceedings for his or her former marriage. The Information for the Petitioner provides to the Tribunal is explained in this document.
    • The Respondent is the other spouse who did not initiate the study of the marriage. The Information for the Respondent provides to the Tribunal is explained in this document.
  • There are two types of Informal Cases that meet the criteria of Documentary Cases. The first is a Lack of Form Case and the second is a Prior Bond Case. The process for Informal Cases is explained in this document.
  • Any discussion of divorce and remarriage among Catholics can be a sensitive issue. There are many misunderstandings of Church teachings in this area. Here are two documents that attempt to answer some of the questions that arise regarding Divorce and Remarriage for Catholics and for Non-Catholics.

If you are ready to begin this process to achieve the healing and closure it offers, the Cathedral of St Jude is ready to help you. An Annulment Information Worksheet is available to help you identify the information and documents needed to submit your petition for a declaration of nullity. You may return the completed worksheet, in a sealed envelope, to the parish office addressed to Fr. Ralph D’Elia – Annulment Advocate. All materials submitted are held in the strictest of confidence in accord with Church Law and will be seen only by those authorized to do so.

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