Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand

Understanding the Declaration of Nullity Process

Catholic Theology teaches that at a wedding the baptised husband and wife bestow the sacrament of marriage on each other. The officiating priest is simply the official witness for the Church, just as the best man and bridesmaid are the community’s witnesses to the public reality of the ceremony. The Catholic Church teaches that the teaching of Jesus on marriage applies to everyone whether they are Catholic or not. (cf. Luke 16:18; 1 Cor, 7:10 ff.)

When two people decide to marry, usually they do it with the best of intentions and good will. However, the divorce rate in New Zealand sees about four out of ten marriages fail.
The Church teaches that all weddings create marriages that are presumed to be binding for life. This presumption of validity is the basis from which Church tribunals proceed, just as “presumed innocence” is the basis of our criminal court system. However, not every wedding becomes a true marriage according to the criteria of the Catholic Church. Like every legal presumption, the presumption that a marriage is binding for life cedes to contrary proof.

The Tribunal itself does not annul marriages, any more than a cricket umpire bowls batsmen out. The umpire has no role in the dismissal. He simply decides whether the fielding team has dismissed the batsman. When the fielding team appeals the umpire has only two findings open to him, “out” or “not out”. So too when the Tribunal receives a request from one of the parties to the marriage to declare whether it is a valid marriage according to the criteria of the Catholic Church and is binding for life. The tribunal then thoroughly investigates the circumstances and the intentions of the spouses. Then the Tribunal has only two findings open to it; “a declaration of nullity that the marriage was not binding for life” or “not proven” in which case the marriage continues to be presumed to be valid and binding for life.

Initial Application Instructions:

  1. Please print and fill in as much as possible the Fact Sheet and complete a Preliminary Submission (See downloadable documents below).
  2. Please submit the Fact sheet and Preliminary submission along with the following documents to the Tribunal for initial assessment:
    1. Baptism Certificate (if any)
    2. Previous Marriage Certificate
    3. Divorce Certificate
  3. The documents above can be submitted by way of:
      1. Post
        Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand
        Diocese of Christchurch
        PO Box 4544
        Christchurch
        New Zealand

    OR

      1. Email – (scanned copy of documents to email and originals by post/in person)
        Tribunal.catholic@catholic-tribunal.org.nz

    OR

      1. In person – (drop off at Reception)
        Cathedral House
        2/9 Washington Way
        Christchurch
        New Zealand<
  1. When the initial application has been received and assessed, a Tribunal personnel will be in touch with you to arrange for an appointment to further discuss your case.”

Fact Sheet

Preliminary Submission Guide

Annulment of a marriage booklet

National Judicial Vicar
Rev. Dr. Brendan Daly

Tribunal Director
Ms. Elizabeth Ong

Email: tribunal.christchurch@catholic-tribunal.org.nz

Phone: 03 366 9869

Postal Address:
The Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand
Diocese of Christchurch
Cathedral House
PO Box 4544
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand