Frequently Asked Questions

This page is regularly updated with new questions and answers. 


 

"How do I open a case for the declaration of nullity of my marriage?"

A case is opened by presenting a Petition at the competent Ecclesiastical Tribunal. If you live in a different diocese from your separated spouse (or if the wedding was celebrated elsewhere) a different Tribunal might be competent to hear your case. When you approach the Tribunal for the first time, you will be given guidance about such matters.

The Petition is basically a summary of the story of your marriage, with particular attention to the factors which brought about the breakdown of the relationship and the subsequent separation (especially those which might already have been present in your – or your spouse’s – childhood or youth, or which might have cropped up during your courtship). This account is not meant to be exhaustive; you will have ample time to explain everything in detail if the case is accepted, when you are called to give your deposition. The Petition is simply meant to help the Tribunal obtain a general idea of the case (and whether there exists a reasonable suspicion that the marriage might indeed be invalid) and decide which grounds of nullity are more applicable to your case.

You could draw up a Petition yourself and present it at the Tribunal. However since most people do not have the technical know-how to write a Petition, you will probably need assistance. The Tribunal offers the services of a Canonical Advisor to the Parties (a position currently occupied by Msgr Louis Camilleri). You can phone the Tribunal (or come in person) to ask for an appointment with him; after hearing you and obtaining all the relevant information, he will draw up the Petition. He will also advise you about any other paperwork you will need in order to introduce a case (marriage certificate etc.).

This same process can also be done by a procurator or advocate who can then also represent you during the nullity proceedings. There is an album (i.e. a list) of such advocates who have followed special courses in Malta or abroad, enabling them to represent clients before our Ecclesiastical Tribunals. This list can be obtained at the Tribunal itself. If you are already in the process of seeking a separation before the Civil Courts, your lawyer might be on this list and could therefore assist you even in front of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal.

If you would like to obtain further information about opening a case for a declaration of nullity, or would like to make an appointment with the Canonical Advisor, please call the Metropolitan Tribunal of First Instance on +356 20119911. You can also click here for more information on the role of the Canonical Advisor to the parties.

 


 

"Will my children be affected if my marriage is declared null?"

When the Church, through her Tribunals, declares a marriage null, the legitimacy of the offspring is never called into question. Canon 1137 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law clearly and unequivocally states that “Children who are conceived or born of a valid or of a putative marriage are legitimate”. Canon 1061 §3 goes on to explain that a putative marriage is an invalid marriage that has been celebrated in good faith by at least one party. Such a definition normally applies to most marriages. Furthermore, in order to protect children from being harmed further by the difficulties between their parents, their testimony is not normally required or accepted during the instruction of a nullity case.

 


 

"How much will my nullity proceedings cost?"

It is impossible to know at the outset the costs that will be incurred during a process since no case is like another and there is a great number of variables which need to be taken into account (e.g. number of sessions necessary for the spouses to give their depositions; number of witnesses and sessions necessary for them to give testimony; whether a psychological report will be required in a case.) Tribunal staff will be glad to discuss such matters with you in order to provide you with a breakdown of expenses and understand your particular needs. This is important since the Church does not want anyone to be deprived of the opportunity of having their marriage investigated for a possible nullity simply because they cannot afford the costs of a process. In fact, a significant number of people every year qualify to have their case subsidised by the Tribunal after having given proof of their financial situation.

 


 

"How long will my proceedings take?"

Once again, as in the above question concerning costs, no exact answer can be given due to the great number of variables involved; no case is like another. Much depends on the specific nature of the case, the cooperation of the parties (i.e. the spouses contesting the validity of their marriage) and the number of sessions that will be required for gathering evidence (including whether a psychological expert will need to be engaged or not). Canon Law – i.e. the Church’s legislation – does provide some specific timeframes (see Canon 1453 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and Article 72 of Dignitas Connubii, the 2005 Instruction which deals with the running of Marriage Tribunals). Unfortunately due to a variety of circumstances including a shortage of staff (which we are working hard to remedy) our Tribunals have still not attained these timeframes. However rest assured that we are doing our best to provide the fastest service possible whilst at the same time respecting the procedures which are necessary in order to investigate each case fairly and with the respect and dignity which the spouses and the sacrament of Marriage deserve. Speaking to our staff, especially the Chancellors of the respective Tribunals, will help you obtain a clearer indication concerning possible timeframes for your particular case.