Marriage Tribunal

Who We Are:

The Offices of this Interdiocesan Tribunal are situated adjacent to the Catholic Cathedral in Johannesburg. The tribunal normally deals with questions of the nullity of marriage. It is also competent to deal with other matters. Tribunal officials are trained and appointed by the Catholic Church.

(What we do)

Possibility of Marriage Annulment

Any person who has been married and has doubts about the validity of their marriage has the right to ask for and receive clarification of this question. The clarification is made through a process conducted by the tribunal officials. This process is designed to carefully examine the circumstances of the marriage and declare whether the marriage was valid or not.

Annulment – what is it?

An annulment is an official Church declaration that a previous marriage no longer binds a person spiritually. This is issued only after a thorough evaluation of the prior marriage, and states that the marriage never had all the essential elements required. These essentials, according to Catholic understanding, include sufficient maturity, free choice and emotional capacity on the part of the spouses, as well as other, more technical elements. The investigation always focuses on the beginning of the marriage, since it is the actual consent exchanged at that time which brings about a valid marriage or not.

The Church office entrusted with this special ministry of evaluation is the Tribunal. Its procedures are strictly governed by internal Church law and can begin once a civil divorce is final.

As you can see, this is purely a religious matter. A Church annulment has no civil effects in the United States. It does not affect children’s legitimacy, for example, nor does it affect property or inheritance rights.

Experience has shown that most participants in the annulment process find it a healing ministry. Marital breakdown is always a painful thing, and the opportunity to consider it carefully and prayerfully often leads to personal growth and greater emotional health.

(Application for Annulment)

Beginning the process of applying to the Tribunal

One of the marriage partners must personally contact the Tribunal Office. Contact details are given below. The tribunal official will provide the applicant with information as to how the process is conducted and the documents and other information to be supplied.

Contact details for the Tribunal Office:
Tel: 011 402 6400: Ask for Tribunal Office

Office Hours 08.30 -15:00h Monday – Friday

Frequently asked questions (F.A.Qs)

Below is a list of frequently asked questions pertaining to marriage annulment. Should you have additional questions that are not included in the list below, please free free to contact the Marriage Tribunal.

Tel: +27(0)11 402-6400.
E-mail:, or

What is Tribunal?

The Tribunal is established by canon law as the judicial office and court system of the Church. The majority of its work involves resolving questions of marital validity; however, the Tribunal works with other sacramental matters, as well. By interpreting and applying the laws of the Church, it protects the rights of all the Christian Faithful.

What is annulment?

An annulment is a court order which nullifies a marriage, or declares that no marriage ever existed.

How do I begin the process for a declaration of nullity?

Contact the priest or deacon of your parish; if you are not Catholic, contact a local Catholic priest where you live or in the parish of your future spouse.  An appointment will be scheduled at which you will be assisted with the application process.  You will be asked to write a thorough history of your former marriage, and to obtain documentary evidence of your baptism, marriage, and divorce.  When this has been completed, these materials will be forwarded to the Marriage Tribunal office.

When can a date be set to marry?

A booking for a Church wedding should not be made until a personal notification that a person is free to marry has been sent to the celebrant. An affirmative decision is never guaranteed until final ratification. Setting a tentative date before a final decision has been given often leads to disappointment since the investigation is a trial of the marriage and, like all trials, the outcome is subject to unforeseen difficulties. Setting a date for a wedding before the final decision is known places the applicant and their proposed partner, not to mention the Tribunal staff, under unreasonable and unnecessary pressure.

Does a declaration of nullity mean there was no marriage?

No. It means that a marriage that was thought to be valid was in fact not valid according to Church law. A declaration of nullity does not deny that a relationship existed. It simply states that the relationship was missing something that the Church requires for a valid sacramental marriage.

Who may apply for a declaration of nullity?

Either party to the marriage whether Catholic or non-Catholic can submit an application to a priest and request that their marriage be examined for nullity. However, before the Church can consider a case, it must be clear that there is no possibility for reconciliation between the parties. A civil divorce is considered sufficient proof that the parties cannot be reconciled.

You should apply for declaration of nullity if you are:

A divorced Catholic who is now civilly remarried outside the Catholic Church and wishes to have his/her union validated

A divorced Catholic who would like to remarry

A divorced non-Catholic who is now civilly married outside the Catholic Church to a Catholic

A divorced non-Catholic who would like to marry a Catholic

A divorced Catholic who is thinking about dating

It should be noted that Catholics who are divorced, but who have not entered into another marriage outside the Church are not required to apply for a declaration of nullity.  Catholics who are divorced are free to receive the sacraments and are encouraged to do so.  However, if the person is thinking about dating in the future, it is best to apply for a declaration of nullity to see whether he or she is free to remarry.

Are the children ever considered illegitimate?

No. A declaration of nullity has no effect on the legitimacy of children. Parental obligations remain after a marriage may be declared null.

How long does this entire process take?

Cases vary according to the time it takes to contact persons involved, and the number of cases pending before the Tribunal at any given time. Each application is dealt with individually. Where a person has been married more than once each union needs to be considered separately. Where both parties to a proposed marriage have been previously married each union would need investigation. Due to the number of applications and the varying factors involved in different cases, no time can be specified. Often an applicant is informed of a decision within a year of presenting the written submission to the Tribunal office, but the average time for an outcome is between twelve and eighteen months.

Who can be asked as a proposed Witness?

Family members and lifelong friends along with individuals that were present during the courtship or were in the wedding party are to be named as Witnesses. They are not simply character referees; they must have some knowledge of the marriage under scrutiny. they must also be willing to be interviewed confidentially by the Tribunal about what they know of the marriage. The Petitioner should seek permission from Witnesses and provide the Tribunal with verified contactable details before naming them. It is important that the petitioner makes sure that the witnesses have agreed to cooperate prior to submitting their names to the tribunal.

Is the testimony kept confidential?

All the information gathered in the course of the investigation of a marriage is considered confidential. This information is not made available except as authorized by Church law. No one else has access to the information contained in the case. The addresses of the parties are never given out, and all contact with the parties is done through the Tribunal office only

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Contact Us:

Contact Details for Administration:
Tel: +27(0)11 402-6400.
E-mail:, or
Normal Business hours are between 8.30 and 15.00, Monday through Friday.
General questions concerning fees and administration can be addressed via e-mail or telephone.

Judicial Vicar
Rev Fr Molewe S Machingoane

Rev Fr. Joseph Pich, Rev. Fr. Molewe S Machingoane and Fr. Raphael Obetia

Defenders of the Bond
Sr.Maureen Rooney, HC, and Rev. Fr Donald McLoughlin

Tribunal Administrators
Ms. S. Greyling and Ms. Charmaine Makhubela

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