Changes to Marriage Nullity Processes.
On September 8th Pope Francis issued the motu proprio, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Gentle Judge, the Lord Jesus), announcing substantive changes to the process for obtaining a declaration of nullity (often called an annulment). These changes will take effect on December 8, 2015, to coincide with the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
What are the major changes?
- Under the new rules it will be easier for the Seattle Tribunal to accept a marriage case when the wedding took place outside the United States or a person’s former spouse is currently living outside the United States.
- If the tribunal gives an affirmative decision and no one challenges it, both parties can enter a new marriage in the Catholic Church.
- Pope Francis encourages tribunals to make the marriage nullity process accessible to all.
- Some who petition for a declaration of nullity will qualify for the new shorter process introduced by the Holy Father if evidence for the invalidity of the marriage is strong and not disputed. For cases that qualify and when both parties to the marriage consent to the shorter process, the Tribunal will do an investigation and the bishop will make a decision in a time shorter than the ordinary process.
What has not changed?
- The preliminary gathering of testimony and documents will occur in the parish with the assistance of a tribunal advocate for all types of cases.
Will the new laws benefit me?
If you have been told that the Seattle Tribunal cannot hear your case because it did not have jurisdiction, call the Tribunal to find out whether the Seattle Tribunal has jurisdiction under the new laws.
Are you divorced from a previous spouse and living in a new marriage not celebrated in the Catholic Church? Now is a good time to ask about petitioning for a declaration of nullity in order to have your new marriage recognized by the Catholic Church.
Most of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle have women and men trained to assist you in presenting a petition to the Tribunal. If you would like to begin this process, please call your parish and ask to have a tribunal advocate contact you.
Seattle Metropolitan Tribunal
710 9th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104