Terms to Know


The Catholic Church uses many terms that are in Latin, the language spoken by the ancient Romans. These words sometimes confuse people trying to get through the annulment process.  Below is a list of key terms used in the Tribunal office.

Marriage A permanent and exclusive partnership of a man and woman for their whole lives for the good of both spouses and for the procreation and education of children
Marriage Tribunal A Church court office located in every diocese throughout the world that is dedicated to reviewing information about particular marriages that have ended in divorce to find out if those marriages can be declared invalid.
Baptismal certificate with annotations An updated copy of the baptismal certificate that also lists the other sacraments the person has received in their lifetime.  This document can be obtained by calling the parish in which baptism or a Profession of Faith was received.

Canon Law

(Church Law)

The rules and regulations for governance of the Church, as taken from the Gospels and developed over history.
Decree of Nullity A declaration from the Roman Catholic Church that a particular union, begun in good faith and thought by all to be a marriage, was in fact an invalid union as the Church defines marriage.
Defect of Form

A process and decree stating that a Catholic party did not follow the rules of marriage as required by the Church.  For validity the Church requires that a marriage be:

  1. in a Catholic church
  2. witnessed by a priest or deacon,
  3. in front of two witnesses,and
  4. using properly approved vows.
Defender of the Bond A member of the Tribunal specially assigned to argue for the validity of the marriage bond.
Formal Acceptance The second stage of the annulment process (the first stage being the initial application/inquiry).  At this stage, the case is recognized as deserving of full consideration and completion, and grounds for nullity are established.
Jurisdiction The right of a particular Tribunal to apply Church Law to a particular marriage. Jurisdiction is determined by the place of marriage and the residence of either or both of the parties.
Ligamen A situation involving a Protestant or non-baptized respondent who was in a prior valid marriage, who now wants to marry a Catholic.  (Commonly referred to as "Prior Bond")
Petitioner The person who begins the annulment proceedings for his/her former marriage.  (See also respondent).
Procurator A person appointed by the Tribunal who assures that the respondent's rights are honored.
Judge A canon lawyer who weighs the evidence of the case and decides the outcome.  In Processus Brevior cases, the Diocesan Bishop serves as the Judge.
Respondent The other spouse, who did not initiate the study of the marriage. See also petitioner.
Second Instance Court A higher court which to which a party in a decision can file an appeal of a decision granted by our Tribunal.  The Second Instance Appeal Court for the Grand Island Tribunal is located in Omaha and is part of the Omaha Archdiocese Tribunal.  The party can also choose to appeal a decision to the Roman Rota.
Special Witnesses Professionals consulted before or during a marriage in order to assist a person or couple. Special witnesses may include: doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, professional counselors, priests, ministers, rabbis, etc. (See also witnesses).
Study of a marriage An investigation to determine whether or not there is some reason in Canon Law for declaring a previous marriage invalid.
Vicar Judicial The chief judge who supervises the Tribunal under the direction of the bishop.
Witnesses Family members or acquaintances of the former couple that may assist the Tribunal in obtaining a deeper understanding of the union, its parties, and its breakdown. (See also special witnesses).