NULLITY OF MARRIAGE
The church describes marriage as
“The matrimonial covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children…” Canon 1055§1.
This marital covenant is brought about through the consent of both parties. Consent, once given by the spouses, is believed, in law, to exist until the contrary can be proven before a Church Tribunal. One of the marital partners can petition a Church court to investigate the canonical validity of a particular marriage (Catholic or non-Catholic). This process is initiated when the partners have no intention of getting back and after a civil divorce has been obtained
Nullity of Marriage is a declaration by the competent ecclesiastical Tribunal that a particular marriage was canonically invalid from its inception. This declaration does not deny that an interpersonal relationship existed, nor does it imply that the marriage was entered into with ill will or through moral fault. The church legal system holds that certain conditions must be present at the time of the contracting of a marriage for the marriage to be considered canonically and ecclesiastically valid. This declaration has no civil effects in Malaysia and does not render any children born of the relationship illegitimate.
INITIAL INTERVIEW AND PRELIMINARY PHASES
Those wishing to petition for nullity will need to call the Tribunal to get instructions on how and what is necessary to be submitted. When all required information is submitted to the Tribunal, a consultant, usually a priest, will help identify the grounds of nullifying the marriage. The word of the parties is not adequate to prove that the marriage is null. Names and addresses of witnesses willing to testify will be required.
From the above information it can be determined whether or not there appears to be a basis for a formal hearing. When there seems to be some basis for an annulment, a petition will be drawn up in your name to be submitted to this Tribunal. The presentation of your petition in no way guarantees an affirmative decision by a Judge. The outcome will depend on what develops during the formal hearing.
THE FORMAL HEARING
At a prescribed date and time, you will be asked to appear and give formal sworn testimony. Your witnesses will also be asked to appear and testify. Throughout this process, confidentiality is protected.
The formal hearing is not public. There is no confrontation of the parties or witnesses. The process is meant to verify the conditions that existed at the time the marriage was contracted.
The Judge will reach a decision after studying all the testimonies and briefs gathered. If a negative decision is reached, which means that the gathered evidence does not warrant the decision for nullity, you will be informed of your right to appeal. If an affirmative decision is reached, you will be so informed.
LENGTH OF TIME
The amount of time it takes to process a case depends upon many factors including the submission of proper documents, the cooperation of the petitioner/respondent/witnesses.
It is impossible to give an exact time, but past experience indicates that an entire procedure lasts between eighteen months and two years depending upon the nature of the case. Under no circumstance should a Church wedding be planned until a favourable decision is rendered.
It varies with the type of case.