On Sept. 8, Pope Francis announced changes in the annulment procedure for Catholics that would not only streamline the process, but also reduce the cost to obtain an annulment. What does that mean for couples seeking annulments in the Diocese of Syracuse?

The new rules will take effect Dec. 8, and according to Msgr. Timothy Elmer, Vicar General/Judicial Vicar for the diocese, the process time will be shortened due to the elimination of the previous mandatory appeal. In addition, most of the current costs will be removed, with the exception of the $50 application fee.

“It is important for people to realize that this process is still very much under construction,” stated Msgr. Elmer. “And although the process may change, what is still required to grant an annulment remains the same. An advocate will still be assigned; a compelling case for the annulment must still be presented; there is still a need for witness statements; and the bishop will still need to review and sign off on all documents.”

Msgr Elmer stated that most people don’t realize when the annulment process begins. “Many times people think we begin a file the day they call the Tribunal office requesting the annulment paperwork, but we don’t begin the process until we receive the petitioner’s questionnaire.”

In this diocese, an annulment process generally takes between three to six months to obtain, and although the new procedures will streamline the process by eliminating two to four weeks of processing time, each annulment is different, based on its circumstances, and timing depends a great deal on receiving the required paperwork from all parties.

“We have had people hold onto to paperwork for years simply because they weren’t ready yet to go through the process emotionally,” explained Msgr. Elmer.

For those with questions on the annulment process, the Office of Family Life Education will host an information session on Oct. 15 at Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center, 500 Brookford Road, Syracuse. The information session will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m, and members from the Syracuse Diocese Tribunal Council will be on hand to answer any questions about annulments and explain the new changes to the process. Refreshments will be served. Those interested in attending must pre-register by calling Deacon Dean Brainard at (315) 472-6753 ext. 5.

For more information and annulment FAQs, visit the diocese’s website here.

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