Our Church is two millennia old, and we have our own laws that are ancient, and that predate any secular law and indeed any secular government. It is important to let that sink in. And let there be no mistake that a tribunal is a court, and that the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Atlanta is the court that will decide on one’s annulments. We need to respect that, but also keep in mind the people who work in our Tribunal are faithful Catholics who take seriously their faith. They are not bad people … they are good people doing a job most of us would not want to do. We need to respect them as well. It is important to keep all of this in mind when approaching our work with them, to show them deference and kindness (and never contempt). Believe it or not some years past the Metropolitan Tribunal of Atlanta was recognized as the busiest tribunal in the world. Suffice it to say these folks are busy, over worked and they have countless cases before them on any given day, so we need to be as well organized as possible to help facilitate their work.
On the Tribunal there will be someone who will work as an advocate to help us procure the annulment (if possible) but there will also be those whose job it is to defend the bond and to argue that we should not get the annulment. Designated judges make the final call. We should never think of the Tribunal as some funny Catholic thing added onto the process of divorce, because again, our Catholic legal system is older than our government’s legal system by many, many centuries, and as baptized Catholics we arebound to the international law of the Church. Frankly our secular government and its legal system are a huge part of the problem when it comes to upholding the sanctity and the understanding of marriage, so again, let us look at the Tribunal as a group of folks whose job it is to uphold marriage in our troubled times, and we should be grateful to them for this thankless task. I would encourage any and all who want to know more about the process to do the following things:
- Go onto the Metropolitan Tribunal of Atlanta’s website at www.archatl.com/offices/tribun
al. Explore this site, and especially the side bar where you’ll find more detailed information.
- Pray about whether or not you want to begin the process of seeking an annulment. If you discern that you want to begin the process, call the parish as ask to speak to the pastor about annulments. If you really want to begin, we need to schedule a meeting.
- If you think that you seriously want to begin this process, then fill out one or more of these forms below together with an Agreement Form for Petitioners (depending upon your circumstances). You will also need to print out the forms that pertain to your circumstance, so if you need help, I can usually assist you in determining which one suits your situation based on an initial conversation, but generally the rule would be as follows:
- If both you and your previous spouse were baptized, and if neither one of you were previously divorced, then you’ll probably have to fill out this one: Petitioner Preliminary Questionnaire for formal cases and an Agreement of Understanding
- If you are pursuing an annulment as a formal case, then you’ll likely benefit from reading over these
Handouts on Grounds for Annulments in Formal Cases
- If you were not baptized when you were married, but your previous spouse was, then you’d likely want to begin by filling out this document: Petition for Favor of the Faith Based on the Petitioner’s Lack of Baptism and an Agreement of Understanding Informal Cases.
- On the other hand if you were baptized but your previous spouse was not, then you’d likely want to fill out this one: Petition for Favor of the Faith Based on the Respondent’s Lack of Baptism and an Agreement of Understanding Informal Cases.
- If neither you nor your previous spouse were ever baptized during the time of your former marriage, then you’ll probably need to fill out this form: Pauline Privilege and an Agreement of Understanding Informal Cases.
- If you or your previous spouse are Catholic but you did not bother getting married in the Catholic Church nor being prepared for marriage by the Catholic Church, nor getting permission to be married by someone other than a Catholic bishop, priest or deacon, then you’ll likely need to fill out this one: Petition of Lack of Canonical Form and an Agreement of Understanding Informal Cases.
- Are there multiple previous marriages? If so, then we’ll need to fill out multiple forms. The first marriage should have one of the above forms for it, but for every marriage thereafter we’ll need the following forms. So if you got remarried or if you married a divorced person without first getting an annulment, then for that second or third divorce you’d likely need to begin filling out this one: Petition for Favor of the Faith Based on the Petitioner’s Lack of Baptism and an Agreement of Understanding.
Again, obviously we need to meet. If the questions on the forms are confusing and you aren’t sure how to answer them, answer them lightly in pencil and then we can clarify their meaning at our meeting. Once you’ve had a chance to review the material online, and once you’ve made some progress on filling out the proper form(s) and pulling together some resources, then meet with the pastor to begin this process in earnest. In the meanwhile, know that we are here to help you if you need us. We are looking forward to meeting with you.