Curia and Tribunal

The Curia and Tribunal Department

Officialis
Rev Brian Murphy BA JCL MCL

Vice-Officialis
Rev Thomas Wood PhB STB JCL

Assistants to the Officialis
Rev Atli Gunnar Jonsson STL
Sr Martine Neill SND MA(Canon Law)
Sr Patricia Redgrave CP
Mr Paul Robbins BSc ACA JCL MCL

Chancellor and Defender of the Bond
Rev Aidan Prescott BSc STB HEL JCL MA MCL

Defender of the Bond
Rev Mgr George Mooney JCL

Promotor of Justice
Rev Stephen Maughan JCL BA (Diocese of Middlesbrough)

Tribunal Administrator
Miss Maureen Stigberg

Contact Details

Archdiocesan Curia
Centre for Evangelisation
Croxteth Drive
Liverpool
L17 1AA
Tel: 0151 522 1012
Fax:0151 522 1014

Metropolitan Tribunal
Centre for Evangelisation
Croxteth Drive
Liverpool
L17 1AA
Tel: 0151 522 1061 
Fax: 0151 522 1062
Email: m.stigberg@rcaol.co.uk

What is an Annulment? Why is it Necessary?

An annulment is a judgment by the Church that a presumed valid marriage, which ended in divorce, was lacking from the very beginning an essential element or ingredient required for valid marital consent.  Consent may be proven defective if either (or both) spouses did not intend a permanent, faithful union or refused to have children.  Consent can also be invalid due to some psychological impairment which prevented one or both spouses from fulfilling the obligations of marriage.

An annulment does not deny that a marriage existed.  It only states that this putative (thought-to-be) marriage, which may have been entered into sincerely and with good will, may not have been valid because of defective consent.

A Church annulment does not influence civil laws in England.  Matters such as the legitimacy of children, property rights or child support can in no way be affected by a Church declaration of nullity.

An annulment is necessary because the Church believes that marriage was intended by God to be a sacred and permanent bond.  Any divorced person seeking to marry again in the Catholic Church must first petition the Church for a declaration of freedom to marry based on an investigation of the previous union.  This investigation seeks to determine whether or not valid marital consent was exchanged and whether or not both spouses were capable of marriage, i.e. forming the covenant of faithful and permanent love that the Church defines marriage to be.
 
An annulment may also be sought for personal solace, even if a person has no plans to remarry.

The Annulment Process

1. A completed divorce decree or civil annulment decree should first be obtained.  The Catholic Church always maintains hope for reconciliation within the marriage until a divorce decree shows that the marriage is legally dissolved.

2. The next step is to contact the Diocesan Tribunal who will take some preliminary information and then offer you an appointment with a member of the Tribunal staff.  You will need to provide the last known address of your former spouse as the Tribunal is required by Church law to inform that person of this proceeding and give him/ her the opportunity to present testimony.  At no time will you be required to meet with your former spouse. If he/ she refuses to participate in this investigation, the case can still continue.

3. You will be assisted by a member of the Tribunal in completing some forms and will then be asked to submit a report (or testimony) including details of your family background and that of your former spouse, the courtship and engagement period, details of the wedding ceremony, the history of the marriage itself and the causes that lead to the breakdown of the marriage.  Your case will then be given to a panel of Judges to see if they think it should progress to a formal hearing.  Should the Judges decline to accept your case you do have the right to appeal against this decision with the Metropolitan Tribunal of Westminster.

4. Additional witness testimonies are required will then be required, these can come from family and/ or friends who knew you and your former spouse prior to the wedding.  The witnesses will be interviewed by specially trained staff.  At least four witnesses are usually required and the parents of the applicant should be included in the nominated witnesses wherever possible.

5. Once all of the testimonies relevant to your case has been collected, you, and your former partner (if they are taking part), will be invited to make an appointment to read through the evidence and comment on it. Please be assured that interviews are conducted in an informal way and support is offered throughout.

6. After a decision has been rendered regarding your petition, you will be informed of the outcome but please be aware that your case will then need to be sent to the Westminster Tribunal for a second hearing.  This is generally completed with twelve weeks is not simply a formality, two positive decisions are required for a declaration of nullity to be issued.  Where there is a difference in the first and second decision the matter will be referred to a third Tribunal.

7. It must be noted that plans for a Catholic wedding in church or convalidation cannot be made until the Tribunal process has concluded and any pre-marital or post-annulment requirements – such as counselling – have been fully met.  

8. The Church Tribunal asks that those who avail themselves of the services of this office assist us in meeting a portion of the expenses that are incurred in each case.  A Diocesan subsidy covers a substantial amount of the expenses in staffing and operating the Tribunal.  An individual’s contribution may be paid in small sums by direct debit over an extended period of time so that no financial hardship is incurred.