Strictly speaking, the word, annulment, is a misnomer. The correct term is declaration of nullity.
The process is a judicial one, a trial, during which the bond of marriage is placed on trial to determine whether it was a valid, sacramental marriage from the very beginning.
As in any trial, there are parties to the case. Here they are termed the petitioner and the respondent. The petitioner is the person who presents the petition to the eparchial tribunal; the respondent is the other party to the marriage. A third party involved is the defender of the bond. This officer of the tribunal has the task of defending the bond of marriage itself.
When the tribunal has received the respondent's petition, the vicar judicial, who is the head of the whole tribunal, assigns the judges and other officers who will be involved in the particular case. The judges on the case rule whether to accept the petition or not. If they do, the respondent is notified of the case and of the right to due process. When all of the evidence has been gathered and the parties are satisfied that there is no further evidence to be acquired, it is made available to the parties so that they can submit briefs to the judges. After the period of time allowed for this, the judges write their sentences and then meet to discuss their findings. They determine the sentence, whether in favor of nullity or not; the sentence is written and the decision communicated to the parties.
The parties can appeal the tribunal's sentence. If no one appeals an affirmative decision, it still must go to the appellate tribunal for consideration. That tribunal can either ratify the first sentence or decide to re-try the case.
When all appeals have been completed, the parties are notified of the final decision.
To begin the process for a declaration of nullity of marriage, a person should contact his or her parish priest. The priest will assist you in getting the initial information and will enter it on the tribunal Web-based program. Further information will be sent to the priest by the tribunal. All communication with the petitioner will be through the priest or pastoral assistant who works with the petitioner. If a person cannot contact the parish priest, the initial approach can be made directly to the tribunal. Address correspondence to:
Secretary to the Tribunal
Eparchy of Parma
1900 Carlton Rd.
Parma, OH 44134