Diocese of Cheyenne Menu

Office of the Tribunal
P.O. Box 1468
Cheyenne, WY 82003
307.638.1530 or 866.790.0014
Fax: 307.637.7936
Email Tribunal Office: ckassahn@dioceseofcheyenne.org

Marriage and Annulment Forms


The Declaration of Invalidity and the "Annulment" Process

The staff of the Office of the Tribunal - Diocese of Cheyenne offers this information to the faithful of the Diocese whose marriages have ended, and who believe that those marriages were never true or valid unions in the eyes of God. It is our hope that this information will dispel many of the common misconceptions about annulments and the process of proving invalidity.

What is marriage?

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is, by God's plan, a covenant between a man and a woman, which establishes an exclusive and lifelong partnership for the giving and receiving of love and the procreation and nurturing of children.

In the Latin tradition, a marriage comes into being when the bride and the groom exchange their consent to marriage through the wedding vows. In the Eastern tradition, a marriage comes into being through the blessing of the priest. The consent of the couple is presumed in their presentation of themselves for the blessing.

For those who have been baptized, a valid marriage is also considered to be a sacrament. Although not every marriage is a sacrament, every marriage, including a marriage between two non-Catholics, whether baptized or not, is presumed to be a valid and binding union.hurch that it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a given marriage was invalid from the start. When a marriage is actually invalid, declaring the nullity of the marriage is a good and just thing.

What is a declaration of invalidity?

A declaration of invalidity (also referred to as an “annulment” or a “declaration of nullity”) is a statement of the Catholic Church that despite the good intentions of both parties, on the day of the wedding, when the couple exchanged their vows, one or more of the elements which the Church considers essential to bring into existence a valid marriage was lacking.

The Catholic Church considers a marriage to be valid when:

  • It is celebrated in a ceremony that is legally acceptable according to Catholic Church law;
  • Both parties are free to marry each other;
  • Each party intends, on the day of the wedding, to accept and fulfill the rights and obligations of marriage;
  • Each party has the physical and psychological ability to live out God's plan for married life as taught by the Church.
If sufficient proof is brought forward to show that one or more of these requirements was lacking from the beginning of the marriage, there is a possibility that the Church will declare the marriage invalid.

What a declaration of invalidity is not:

A declaration of invalidity is not a moral judgment about the parties themselves. It is not a continuation of the divorce proceedings, nor should it be seen as an approval or condemnation of the marital behavior of one or both parties. The tribunal seeks to determine whether or not the elements necessary for a valid marriage were present on the day of the wedding. A declaration of invalidity is a factual statement that according to Catholic Church law that one or more of the elements, which the Church considers to be essential for a valid marriage, was lacking at the time the couple exchanged their wedding vows. Through-out the “annulment” process, it is the bond of marriage that is being judged, not the parties to the marriage.

A declaration of invalidity is not a statement of the Catholic Church that the previous relationship between the spouses never existed. They celebrated a wedding ceremony, they shared a life with each other, and perhaps had children together. A declaration of invalidity cannot change these facts.

A declaration of invalidity has absolutely no effect upon the legitimacy of any children born of the marriage. It does not change the legal stipulations of the divorce, such as child support and visitation. A declaration of invalidity does not relieve one of his or her moral obligations as a parent. Both civil law and Church law recognize the important responsibility

Who might need a declaration of invalidity?

Anyone (Catholic, non-Catholic, baptized, or non-baptized) who is divorced, and whose former spouse is still living, may require a declaration of invalidity before he or she will be permitted to marry in the Catholic Church.

Those who are currently participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and are divorced and re-married may also require a declaration of nullity in order that their current marriage may be recognized by the Catholic Church.

It is a fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church that any marriage which contains those elements that the Church considers to be essential for a valid union cannot be ended by anything other than death. When those necessary elements are present, not even divorce can end the unbreakable promise that the spouses have made to each other through their wedding vows.

Because no person can have more than one valid marriage at a time, before anyone is permitted to marry in the Catholic Church, his or her freedom to marry must be established. Church law requires that any prior marriage(s) be investigated to determine whether or not the essential elements required for a valid marriage were present at the time that the previous marriage occurred.

How does one begin the invalidity process?

Either spouse may initiate the nullity process by first contacting a local Catholic priest, deacon, or designated lay person, who will provide an application for a declaration of nullity and a brief questionnaire regarding the former marriage. A separate application and questionnaire must be completed for each prior marriage.

A copy of the marriage certificate, final divorce decree, and a recently issued (within the past 6 months) baptismal certificate with notations for any Catholic party will also be required.

Within thirty days of receiving the request for a declaration of invalidity, it will be reviewed by members of the tribunal staff. If there is no indication of the possibility of invalidity, the petitioner will be so advised. If the petition for a declaration of invalidity indicates the possibility that the marriage may have been invalid, the petitioner will be advised that the case has been accepted for investigation.

Why must the former spouse be contacted?

Catholic Church law requires that both parties to the marriage be afforded the same rights throughout the process. The former spouse has the right to know that the tribunal has received a petition for a declaration of invalidity, the grounds upon which the petition is based, and the names of the witnesses that have been proposed. Church law requires that the former spouse be given the opportunity to fully participate in the “annulment” process. He or she has the right to provide testimony in the case and to name other witnesses that may be knowledgeable about the marriage.

When the petitioner is notified that the petition has been accepted for investigation, the former spouse must also be notified that the process has been initiated. Thus, the tribunal must have an accurate and current address for both parties before it can begin to process a petition for a declaration of nullity.

While the tribunal is obligated to inform the former spouse of his or her rights in the nullity process, whether or not the former spouse wishes to exercise those rights is a personal choice. If the former spouse has not responded within thirty days of being notified by the tribunal, the case will proceed.

Please note that it is not necessary for the petitioner to contact the former spouse. The tribunal will make the formal contact with both parties throughout the “annulment” process.

Why are witnesses required?

Church law requires that the facts upon which the petition for a declaration of nullity is based be, corroborated by knowledgeable witnesses. Witness testimony, as well as the testimony of both spouses, provides the tribunal with a more complete under-standing of the spouses, the marriage, and the problems in the relationship.

Knowledgeable witnesses are people who knew the spouses well. They are knowledgeable about the backgrounds of the couple and how the relationship began and developed. Good witnesses are people who knew the couple before they met and during the courtship, wedding and the early years of the marriage. For this reason, the Tribunal will not cite children of the marriage as they cannot offer this type of testimony.

Is the information submitted to the tribunal confidential?

The information gathered during the marriage invalidity process is never made available or released to any person except as required by Catholic Church law. The tribunal staff will not discuss a marriage invalidity case with any persons other than the spouses and the appropriate tribunal representatives.

Is a declaration of invalidity granted to everyone who petitions?

Not everyone who petitions for a declaration of invalidity receives one. The acceptance of a petition should not be interpreted or understood as a guarantee that a declaration of invalidity will be granted.

A declaration of invalidity is only granted when the evidence provided to the tribunal clearly shows that despite the good intentions of both parties, on the day of the wedding, when the two parties exchanged their vows, one or more of the elements which the Church considers essential for a valid marriage was lacking.

Is the decision of the tribunal final?

The decision of the tribunal is not final. Either spouse has the right to appeal the decision of the tribunal.

How long does the “annulment” process take?

The tribunal is dedicated to processing cases as quickly as possible. However, it is impossible to accurately predict the exact length of time required to process a particular case.

Church law requires that cases be processed according to the order in which they are received. Current experience indicates that when the required information is readily available, ten to twelve months from the time the case is accepted by the tribunal is the average length of time required to process a case. This is simply an average; it is not a guarantee. Some cases require more or less time to be processed.

Is there a charge for the tribunal services?

There is no charge for the services rendered by the tribunal. The expenses for processing the case are financed through the annual Living and Giving in Christ Appeal. Please remember in your prayers the donors to this annual diocesan appeal.

When is one permitted to remarry in the Catholic Church?

Arrangements for a future marriage in the Catholic Church may not be made until the “annulment” process has been completed. If a declaration of invalidity is granted, and there are no restrictions attached, preparation for marriage in the Catholic Church may begin at the local parish.

Please note that the tribunal will not advance or expedite any case due to wedding plans being made before a final decision of the tribunal has been reached.

Is a divorced Catholic excommunicated from the Church?

The Church does not teach that divorce is cause for excommunication. Being divorced does not affect one's status in the Church. Catholics who happen to be divorced remain full members of the Church with the same rights and obligations as any other Catholic. The Church encourages those who are divorced to continue the practice of their Faith.

Can divorced Catholics receive the sacraments?

Catholics who are divorced may continue to receive the Sacraments of the Church so long as they have not entered another marriage before receiving a declaration of invalidity for the previous marriage(s).

Catholics who are divorced and have remarried without a declaration of invalidity are not free to receive the Sacraments until the current marriage can be validated in the Church. However, Catholics in this situation are not excommunicated, and are encouraged to attend Mass and practice the other aspects of their Faith.

If a Catholic marries a divorced non-Catholic, may the Catholic party continue to receive the Sacraments?

Should a Catholic choose to marry one who is not free to marry according to Church law, the Catholic may not continue to receive the Sacraments. In order for the Catholic to return to the Sacraments, it will be necessary for the non-Catholic party to receive a declaration of invalidity regarding his or her previous marriage(s).

In fact, anyone who is divorced should be encouraged to find strength through the reception of Holy Communion. So long as a divorced person has not remarried outside of the Church and he or she is not conscious of any mortal sin, that person can and should go to Holy Communion.

Healing

When parties move through the tribunal process, there is an opportunity for them to experience healing. This is not the primary task of the tribunal, but it is a positive consequence in the search for truth. The tribunal investigation is an emotionally difficult experience and can reopen old wounds. In order to move on with their lives after a divorce, many individuals allow a scab to form over their woundedness. The tribunal process hopefully removes this scab and in doing so heals the wound and the soul. This healing is necessary to assure one does not carry this woundedness forward into another relationship.

Descriptions of Tribunal positions

Judicial Vicar – The Bishop is obliged by Church (or “canon”) law to appoint a Judicial Vicar for the diocese. The Judicial Vicar oversees the tribunal or “court’ for the local Church. The tribunal handles marriage cases (i.e. petitions for “annulment”), penal cases and other contentious cases. Catholic tribunals are the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the western world. The Judicial Vicar and the entire tribunal staff support the Bishop in his governance of the diocese. The Judicial Vicar also is delegated to grant permissions and dispensations for marriages and other matters governed by Canon law.

Adjutant Judicial Vicar – is appointed by the Bishop to assist the Judicial Vicar in the administration of the Tribunal, judge cases and in advising the Bishop in Canonical matters. The Adjutant Judicial Vicar is delegated to grant permissions and dispensations for marriages.

Promoter of Justice – appointed for contentious cases and/or penal cases which affect the public good.

Defender of the Bond – the defender is an official of the tribunal who proposes and clarifies everything that can be reasonably adduced against a declaration of invalidity of a sacrament. He ‘defends’ the validity of the “bond of marriage”; hence the title of the office. Ultimately, the defender of the bond of marriage serves the search for truth.

Advocate – safeguards the rights of the petitioner and other party by working on their behalf. One of the most important roles of the advocate is to write a “legal brief” on behalf of his/her party and submit this to the judge for consideration. The advocate will strive to argue the invalidity of the marriage for the petitioner, while the advocate for the other party will follow the direction of the other party and either argue for the invalidity of the marriage or will endeavor to refute any suggestion that the marriage is invalid.

Tribunal Case Instructor/Auditor - gathers the evidence in the case, interviews the parties, and witnesses. She assists the Judicial Vicar in the administration of the Tribunal and assists the Judicial Vicar and Judges in instructing cases.

Ecclesiastical Notary/Administrative Assistant – assists the tribunal Case Manager and authenticates all judicial acts of the Tribunal.

Tribunal Members

Rev. Thomas E. Cronkleton, Jr., JCD Judge
Rev. Thomas R. Kadera, JCL Judge
Diane L. Barr, JD, JCD, PhD Promoter of Justice
Rev. John List, JCL Defender of the Bond
Rev. David L. Deibel, JD, JCL Defender of the Bond
Very Rev. Carl Gallinger VG Defender of the Bond
Very Rev. Sam Hayes Defender of the Bond
Ms. Helen Roberta Small, JD, JCL Defender of the Bond
Bonnie Baumberger Advocate
Deacon Kim Carroll Advocate
Stephanie Denning Advocate
Very Rev. Jim Heiser Advocate
Tamra Hendrickson Advocate
Sr. Gladys Noreen, OSB Advocate
Rev. Robert Rodgers, JCL Advocate
Rev. Louis Shea Advocate
Susan Simon Advocate
Cameron Smith Advocate
Rev. Glen Szczechowski Advocate
Connie Kassahn Tribunal Case Instructor
Pamela A. Miller Ecclesiastical Notary

Marriage &: Annulment Forms

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Marriage Forms, English:

The Marriage forms will open in a .pdf form that can be filled out online. You may choose to fill the form/s out and print and/or save, or print them blank and fill out by hand. Either way, all forms will have to be signed in person.

  • Form MA: Pre-Nuptial Investigation
  • Form MB: Affidavit Concerning the Freedom to Marry
  • Form MC: Application for Matrimonial Dispensations or Permissions
  • Form MD: Parochial Delegation and Permissions for Marriage
  • Form ME: Marriage Preparation Checklist

Las formas del casamiento:

Annulment Forms:

The Annulment forms will open in a .pdf form that can be filled out online. You may choose to fill the form/s out and print and/or save, or print them blank and fill out by hand. Either way, all forms will have to be signed in person.



Rev. Thomas E. Cronkleton, Jr., JCD Judicial Vicar

Fr. Tom Cronkleton is the Judicial Vicar. He has been appointed by the Bishop to administer the Tribunal, judge cases and advise the Bishop in canonical matters. He is also delegated to grant permissions and dispensations for marriages.

Email: frtom@dioceseofcheyenne.org

Rev. Thomas R. Kadera, JCL Adjutant Judicial Vicar

Fr. Tom KaderaFr. Tom Kadera is the Adjutant Judicial Vicar. He has been appointed by the Bishop to assist the Judicial Vicar in the administration of the Tribunal, judge cases and in advising the Bishop in canonical matters. He is also delegated to grant permissions and dispensations for marriages.

Email: tkadera@dioceseofcheyenne.org

Connie Kassahn, Tribunal Case Instructor

Connie KassahnConnie Kassahn is the Tribunal Case Instructor. She assists the Judicial Vicar in the administration of the Tribunal, and helps the Judicial Vicar and Judges instruct cases.

Email: ckassahn@dioceseofcheyenne.org

Pamela Miller, Ecclesiastical Notary

Email: pmiller@dioceseofcheyenne.org

Pamela Miller is the Administrative Assistant/Ecclesiastical Notary for the Tribunal. Pam assists the Tribunal Case Manager and authenticates all judicial acts of the Tribunal.