The Tribunal is a Church court which is essentially about rendering justice while applying the Church's Canon Law. In other words, the Tribunal is a judicial body and a pastoral ministry of the Church, which deals with issues involving injustices and any cases that might need the interpretation of the Church's own Law. The laws of the Church determine when the Church community can recognise a union as a marriage.
What are Annulments?
The Church acknowledges that marriage breakdown is usually a traumatic experience for all concerned. The time of separation and divorce is a time of upheaval and at all levels it can result in strained friendships and feelings of alienation and guilt. While upholding the permanence of sacramental marriage, the Church does reach out in support to those whose marriages have broken down. Both these aspects of the Church are particularly evident in the work of the Tribunal.
A nice wedding doesn't always equal a marriage. Certainly the law presumes that each wedding is a marriage. When a marriage breaks down and there is no hope of reconciliation, in Church law either party has the right to challenge the validity of the marriage.
The Process and Requirements
The time to start thinking of an annulment is when a marriage has finally and irretrievably broken down and all civil matters have been dealt with. Some come to seek nullity because they want to remarry in the Catholic Church or they want to finalise this part of their lives.
The Marriage Tribunal office understands that the annulment process raises a number of questions and is often a misunderstood process. Please view our Annulment Questions page for more detailed information.
The booklet 'Divorce and the Catholic Church - Frequently Asked Questions' published by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, attempts to explain some of the principles underlying the Church's approach to issues around divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist.