annulment question

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Question from Anon on 6/4/2008:

What is meant by the first instance and the second instance in an annulment proceeding?
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 6/4/2008:

The Church's Tribunal system has three tiers (just like with many court systems in the United States).

The traditional system is the local Diocesan Tribunal, the Metropolitan Tribunal (of the archdiocese), and then the Roman Rota (third instance, the "supreme court").

(Due to case load, the second instance Tribunals have in many situations been rearranged so that dioceses serve as second instance to other dioceses rather than all second instance cases going to the archdiocese.)

For a marriage nullity cause to be final, two affirmative decisions must be rendered. Usually this happens in first instance and second instance (e.g., the Diocese of Scranton in first instance, the archdiocese of Philadelphia in second instance).

However, if a negative decision is given in either first or second instance, then the cause can go to the Roman Rota, who can either render an affirmative or a negative decision, just like first or second instance.

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