Below is a question and answer guide to the annulment procedure in the Catholic Church in england and Wales was prepared for the website of the former Associaton of Separated and Divorced Actholics. It is also included on the FAQ page of this website. 

You may also be interested to read the text of a talk on the subject given by a spiritual guide to one of the groups organised by the Association of Separated and Divorced Catholics. Click here to see the text.


Q: What is marriage?

A: The Catholic Church understands marriage as an enduring and exclusive partnership for the giving and receiving of love and the generation and upbringing of children. Through their mutual consent, the man and the women give themselves to each other in total commitment for the whole of their lives, thereby undertaking the rights and obligations of marriage. For those who have been baptised, a valid marriage is also a sacrament. The Catholic Church also teaches that every sacramental marriage that has been consummated is indissoluble. This is the presumption in every such marriage.

Q: How then is an annulment possible?

A: In every presumption the opposite may be true. If sufficient evidence can be shown that a particular marriage is invalid, the original presumption no longer holds.

A couple entering marriage must have the right intention and mind so that their consent to each other can genuinely produce the reality of a true marriage. They must also be capable of creating and sustaining the marriage relationship. When it can be proved that no true consent was given or that there was an inability to undertake and carry out the obligations of marriage, then the Church may declare a marriage null and void. This statement by the Church that a marriage was invalid from the beginning does not deny that a real relationship existed, nor does it imply ill-will or moral fault. Rather, it is a statement by the Church that, from the beginning, the relationship fell short of at least one o f the elements for a binding marriage.

Q: What is the purpose of the Tribunal?

A:Church law calls for the existence of a Tribunal in every diocese. The Tribunal of the Diocese of Salford is under the direction or the Bishop and is supervised by his delegate, the Judicial Vicar. The Tribunal is staffed by qualified and trained personnel and its purpose is to administer justice with pastoral service and care. The Tribunal’s objective is to determine whether a marriage is binding before God. It is not in any way concerned with apportioning blame for the breakdown of a marriage. In time we will have addresses of the main Tribunals in England and Wales on the Website. In the meantime you can E Mail me at for any particular address.

Q: What steps are involved in the procedure?


  1. Contact a priest (preferably one in your parish) and he will make an appointment with you to complete an introductory form called a "Preliminary Questionnaire". Your Priest will then forward this information to the Tribunal for an initial evaluation.
  2. You will be notified by the Tribunal that evaluation has begun. A formal appointment will be arranged for a later date.
  3. If, as a result of the evaluation, grounds for nullity are apparent, your former spouse will be notified in writing that a petition for nullity has been received. He/she will be offered the opportunity to present his/her side of the history of the marriage as well as to introduce any witnesses he/she chooses. The universal law of the Church requires this. Moreover, in some cases no decision can be given without the co-operation of the former spouse. If the former spouse does not wish to co-operate or refuses to supply any information that can be substantiated, the Tribunal proceeds with its investigation.
  4. After your formal appointment, the Tribunal will examine your statements, documents, etc., and will arrange with you the contacting of witnesses to assist the Tribunal in reaching an objective decision.
  5. Once all the evidence has been obtained, it is reviewed by an Advocate (a canon lawyer) who is appointed to act on your behalf and to argue your case for you. Another member of the Tribunal staff will be appointed Defender of the Bond to guarantee your rights, the rights of your former spouse and the Church and if possible, to argue the validity of the marriage.
  6. After the Advocate and Defender of the Bond present their arguments, the complete dossier is studied by a panel of three Judges for their decision. This decision is subject to review by an Appeal Tribunal . The Appeal Tribunal for Salford Is Liverpool. If both Tribunals render the same decision, the case will be concluded by decree. If not, a further appeal can be lodged to the Sacred Roman Rota.

Q: How long does the process take?

A: It is impossible to predict the length of time because of a number of variable factors. No two cases are the same. Each case will receive a thorough and just investigation and the Tribunal will make every effort to bring the case to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Q: Are witnesses required?

A: Yes. Marriage is never a totally private relationship. It creates profound effects on the family, society and the Church. The law of the Church requires you to provide witnesses so that sufficient proof can be obtained to enable the Tribunal to reach an objective decision.

Q: Can anyone be a witness?

A: Two criteria should be used in choosing witnesses. First, they should have knowledge about you, your former spouse and your marriage. Secondly, the most objective witnesses should be chosen. Besides family and friends there may be specialist witnesses e.g., doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists. counselors etc., who have been consulted before or during the marriage.

Q: What if I don't want my former spouse involved?

A: In this case the Tribunal cannot very well process the case, as it would be an infringement of natural justice. Every effort must be made to contact your former spouse and the Tribunal is obliged to insist on this.

Q: Is an annulment always granted?

A: No, but many of those who have their petitions accepted by the Tribunal do obtain annulments. There are times when a person simply does not have grounds for nullity as understood in the Church's law. Further, it may be that the claims cannot be proven, usually because witnesses are unavailable or insufficiently informed about the matter.

Q: Are there any civil effects to a Church annulment?

A: There are absolutely no civil effects to a Church annulment in our country. It does not effect in any manner the legitimacy of children, property rights, names etc. A Church annulment is a declaration that a particular marriage, presumably begun in good faith and thought by all to be a marriage was, in fact an invalid union as the Church describes marriage, there is no attempt in the investigation to impute guilt or apportion blame from the breakdown of the marriage. On the contrary, the purpose of the annulment procedure is to serve one’s conscience and spirit and to reconcile persons to full sacramental participation in the community of the Church.

Q: Is remarriage in the Catholic Church allowed?

A: Yes, If an annulment is granted and there are no restrictions attached to it, the usual procedure of preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church may be started with the local Parish Priest. If a marriage has been declared invalid due to a specific cause a second marriage obviously cannot be permitted until it has been demonstrated that the cause which invalidated the first marriage has been removed. Please note that the permission to remarry in the Catholic Church can in no way be guaranteed before the procedure has been fully competed

Q: Is there a cost for the Tribunal services?

A: If at the conclusion of the entire process, the decision is in favour of nullity, you will then be asked to make a contribution to the costs which have been incurred by the diocese. We believe that it is fair that those who avail themselves of the services of the Tribunal Office assist in the contribution of the work. The contribution does NOT cover all the expenses involved in the processing of the case. Through the generosity of the people of the Church, the Tribunal Office is substantially subsidised in most dioceses. Please note, however, that if for any reason you cannot afford to contribute to the expenses, a simple explanation to the Tribunal would be appreciated. At no time should financial considerations discourage or stop a person introducing a case. One's ability or inability to contribute in no way affects the progress or the outcome of a request.

Questions divorced Catholics ask about their status

Q:Can a divorced person receive Holy Communion?

A: Yes, a divorced person who is not remarried is in a situation similar to that of a priest or nun: a single person in the Church with full rights and duties except for the right to enter a new marriage.

Q:Is a divorced person ex-communicated from the Church?

A: No. A Catholic is not ex-communicated when he/she is divorced. However, the right to enter a new marriage must be obtained from the Church.

Q:Does that mean the Catholic who has remarried outside the church can receive Holy Communion too?

A: No. even though a remarried Catholic is not ex-communicated, it does not mean that he/she can receive Holy Communion. They must first obtain the right to enter a new marriage from the Church.

If you have any further questions, you are welcome to contact the Tribunal Office in the diocese in which you live.  One or two tribunals in England prefer/insist upon contact being made via the applicant's parish priest but most tribunals welcome direct approaches.  

If you are in doubt about the whereabouts of your local tribunal I may be able to provide details.  Just send an e mail giving your home address to