Several steps are involved. The person who is asking for the declaration of nullity – the petitioner – submits written testimony about the marriage and a list of persons who are familiar with the marriage. These people must be willing to answer questions about the spouses and the marriage. If the other spouse did not co-sign the petition, the tribunal will contact that spouse – the respondent – who has a right to be involved. In some cases the respondent does not wish to become involved; the case can still move forward.
Based on the information that was submitted, a tribunal official will determine the process that is to be followed. Regardless of the selected process, both the petitioner and the respondent will be able to read the testimony submitted, except that protected by civil law (for example, counseling records). Each party may also appoint a Church advocate to represent him or her before the tribunal. A representative for the Church, called the defender of the bond, will argue for the validity of the marriage.
If the tribunal decides in favor of the nullity of the marriage, the parties are then free to marry in the Catholic Church, unless an appeal of the decision is lodged or the decision includes a prohibition against one or both of the parties marrying until certain underlying issues have been resolved (see Code of Canon Law, 1682.1).