A Formal Case is generally referred to as petition for a Declaration of Nullity. In reality, the petitioner is asking the Church to acknowledge there was no valid consent regarding the marriage in question. The Church holds that a previous union is valid and, because of Divine Law, a person with a valid union cannot enter into a subsequent marriage. Individuals are not free to enter into a new marriage unless it can be shown that the previous union was not valid according to the Church's understanding of the requirements for a valid consent. A person is not free to marry unless and until there has been two Affirmative Decisions. The case is first heard by a First Instance Court, such as Tribunal of Oklahoma City.
Once a person has been divorced, a person can approach the local parish to initiate the process. Anyone may submit a case. Normally this would be a Catholic; or a non-Catholic desiring to marry a Catholic or desiring to become a Catholic. One of the two parties to the previous marriage must submit the petition.
During the initial meeting with the parish minister, the Petitioner will describe the specifics of the marriage so that the minister can make an initial determination of the type of case to present. The petitioner will be asked to present a copy of the final divorce decree, a marriage certificate, and if Catholic, a current baptismal or profession of faith certificate. A basic questionnaire needs to be completed by the Petitioner. The questionnaire requires the correct address of the Respondent. The Respondent has a right to know of the proceedings and the case cannot be initiated without this issue being resolved. Additionally, the questionnaire asks for the names and addresses of several witnesses with knowledge of the parties and the marriage.
Upon completion of the questionnaire, the minister will review the answers and the required documents. If everything is in order, the minister will sign the application and submit the materials to the Tribunal for processing.