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Ministry of Reconciliation
What is an Annulment? 
What is a Tribunal?
Are There Civil Effects of a Church Declaration of Nullity?
What is the Initial Step in the Process?
Tribunal Ministry of Reconciliation
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Office of the Diocese of Las Vegas 
336 Cathedral Way
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109-0716
Telephone (702) 735-1210
Fax (702) 735-5146

Judicial Vicar: Father Robert Herbst, OFM Conv, JCD

Secretary: Mrs. Pam Morley, A.A.

Advocate and Receptionist: Mrs. Margarita Hernandez

The Diocesan Tribunal is an extension of the Bishop’s judicial ministry to the people of the Diocese of Las Vegas. The Tribunal exercises its ministry, grounded in Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Catholic Church, in the spirit of reconciliation and compassion, always with the utmost confidentiality. The Tribunal office is staffed by priests, deacons, religious, and lay persons trained in Canon Law.

Tribunal Ministry of Reconciliation

Divorce is often an emotionally painful experience.  Dreams are ended.  Persons feel hurt and alienated from one another, their community, the Church and God.  Often a person holds the pain of rejection inside. The ministry of the Marriage Tribunal is one part of the Church’s effort to offer healing and hope to those who had failed marriages.  The Tribunal investigates these situations to determine whether the parties in certain instances may be free to remarry in the Church.
This process is an opportunity for reflection.  One recalls and tells the story of the marriage as a whole.  In recalling one’s story, the person looks at the cumulative effects of their experience on this relationship.  As one writes or speaks about the marriage relationship, a person learns more about the former spouse and yourself.  As the parties come to recognize the root of the failure of their marriage, they can more easily forgive and move on.

What is an Annulment?

An ecclesiastical (Church) annulment is a declaration by a competent Church Tribunal that a particular marriage was never a real and genuine union of the spouses from the outset. That is, there never was a marriage in the true sense of the word. It differs from a civil divorce in that a divorce attempts to dissolve and/or break a marriage, while a church’s decree of nullity declares that there never was a true bond to begin with. A church annulment does not ‘wipe out’ those historical events that took place during those years of the union of the couple, nor does the Church ever make a judgment upon the legitimacy of the children. The ending of a marital relationship can be one of the most painful and difficult experiences a person will ever face.  While the Catholic Church teaches and believes in the permanence of the marriage bond and strives to promote stable and faithful marriages, she also recognizes that some unions do not survive because they were lacking from the very beginning some essential ingredient without which there could not be a valid marriage.  When such a lack of an essential element can be proven by evidence in a Church court, that marriage can be declared null.

What is a Tribunal?

Canon law mandates that every diocese has a Department of Canon Law, also known as “the Tribunal” to assist the Bishop in the administration of justice to diocesan subjects in a timely manner.  This department functions as the local church's legal department of religious affairs. The Tribunal’s  purpose is two-fold: the first is to safeguard the rights of all Catholics in the Diocese, from Bishop to catechumen.  The second is to act as a trial court for contentious cases referred to it by the Bishop. Most of these cases are concerning marriage annulments; however, the Department of Canon Law is also competent to hear penal cases involving the diocesan bishop and his subjects. Because it is a duly constituted court, it also has the ability to have cases referred to it by the Holy See.
“The Tribunal” in the Diocese of Las Vegas is supervised by the Judicial Vicar.  He, together with a staff of trained priests, deacons, and laypersons, offers assistance to individuals who formally request that the Church study their marriage in order to determine the validity thereof - if there is any possibility of a Declaration of Nullity.  Having received such a declaration, an individual then has the possibility to contract another marital union under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.


In accord with Canon Law, all previously married individuals (Catholic or not) have the right to seek clarification of the canonical status of their previous marriage(s).
Divorced individuals, regardless of religious affiliation, have the right to apply for an annulment of their prior marriage.  Persons who are members of the Catholic Church often pursue an annulment in order to establish their freedom to marry a Catholic in the Catholic Church.

What is the Initial Step in the Process?

An individual interested in submitting a Petition to the Tribunal must contact their local parish priest or deacon for an initial interview – the Tribunal Office can only accept annulment cases prepared by a priest, deacon, or diocesan-approved advocate.  At this time the person, hereafter known as the Petitioner, will tell the story of his or her marriage, with special emphasis on any personal background, circumstances, personality traits and behavioral patterns on the part of either or both parties which in their opinion may have caused or contributed to the failure of the union.  Specific facts such as the duration of the courtship, the religious affiliation, and baptismal status of the parties, date, and place of marriage and of divorce should also be presented at this time.  Some documents will be required when the Petition is submitted to the tribunal, including but not limited to – the civil marriage license, the civil final decree of divorce, and baptismal certificates (or possibly affidavits) for baptized parties.  Once the Petition is submitted through your local parish, you will be contacted directly by the Tribunal office on the next steps that will be required.

Are There Civil Effects of a Church Declaration of Nullity?

In the United States there are no civil effects of a Church Declaration of Nullity.  It does not affect in any manner the legitimacy of children (see Canon 1137), property rights, inheritance rights, visitations rights, names, etc.  A Church annulment is a declaration from the Catholic Church that a particular union, presumably begun in good faith and thought by all to be a valid marriage, was in fact an invalid union as the Catholic Church defines marriage.  There is no attempt in the annulment process to accuse or to punish individuals.  On the contrary the purpose of an annulment procedure is, whenever possible, to reconcile persons to full sacramental participation in the community of the Catholic Church. This following page [hyperlink to FAQ page] covers many of the Frequently Asked Questions about the annulment process and procedures of the Diocese.

If you have any further questions, feel welcome to contact the Tribunal Staff at our Diocesan Office.




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