HOW DOES A MARRIAGE INVESTIGATION PROCEED?
- The first step is to contact the Tribunal office either through a referral from your parish or directly by telephone or email. You will be asked for some preliminary information (to determine if the Winnipeg Tribunal has “competence” to hear the case) before being given an application form to complete. Once the forms have been completed, they are returned to the Tribunal together with a copy of your Certificate of Divorce. An incomplete application will cause a delay in accepting your case.
- Your application will be reviewed. If the Director of the Tribunal determines there are reasonable grounds for invalidity, the case will be accepted. The Director prepares the initial paperwork and advises both you (the Petitioner) and your former spouse (the Respondent) by letter that a case has been started. You will be asked to sign a Petition (Libellus) which briefly outlines your request.
- A Registered Letter to the Respondent will serve as notification of the proceedings and an invitation to participate. The Respondent also has the right to name witnesses. A period of fifteen days (thirty if resident in another country) is given as a deadline for a response. If nothing is received from the Respondent at the expiration of this time limit, the Tribunal will declare the party absent from the process and the case will move ahead.
- Arrangements will be made for separate personal interviews under oath for the principal parties and the witnesses. If a Respondent or witness resides in another province, arrangements will be made to have that individual interviewed by another Tribunal.
- After the recorded testimonies are transcribed and all pertinent material is added to the file, Tribunal personnel review the case to ascertain if there is sufficient evidence to proceed. If so, the Director sets a date for judging and publishes the “Acts”. At this time both the Petitioner and Respondent have the right to review any portion of the testimony which is unknown to them. In most cases, the right to view is waived by the parties and the case is put on the docket for judging.
- Prior to the judging date, the case is sent to the Defender of the Bond who makes any and all arguments for the validity of the marriage. The Defender submits a “brief” for consideration by the judges.
- Three Judges will evaluate the case according to the applicable grounds in Canon Law and a decision will be reached as to the validity or non-validity of the marriage in question. A majority decision stands.
- The Petitioner and the Respondent are notified of the decision and given a period of fifteen days in which to request to read the Sentence or to formally appeal the decision. The Defender of the Bond receives a copy of the Sentence and also has the right to appeal the decision.
- If there is no appeal, the decision is ratified and both parties to the marriage receive a letter to this effect. This letter should be kept with other important documents as it will be needed if there is to be a second marriage in the Church.