| Year 2000 Canonical Studies pp. 65-118
THE INTRODUCTORY PHASE IN MATRIMONIAL NULLITY PROCESS
(Rev. Dr. Victor George D’Souza)
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Introduction

The term process has a number of meanings. Etymologically, it signifies a progressive motion or a forward movement. In the context of a legal trial, it refers to a series of successively ordained acts that tend towards resolving a controversy.1 Process may be defined as the juridic discussion of particular cases by a competent judge or superior according to a legitimate and special form. The form is legitimate because law prescribes it. In addition to the general procedural forms, such as, ordinary contentious process, the code contains special for process (e.g., matrimonial processes, under which there are processes (i) for the dispensation from ratified and non-consummated marriage; (ii) for the presumed death of a spouse; (iii) for separation of spouses and (iv) for the declaration of the nullity of marriage. The process for the declaration of nullity of marriage is a special procedure stipulated in law, which makes use of the general form of an ordinary contentious process.2

The matrimonial nullity process has hours distinct phases in the first instance: (a) introductory phase, (b) introductory or probatory phase concerning the collection of evidence, (c) discussional phase geared towards the discussion between parties and defender of the bond, promoter of justice at the direction of the judge, (d) decisional phase – the judgement/decision and its publication. After this instance, the case proceeds to a higher instance either for (i) ex iure review or by appeal of judgement and concludes with (ii) the execution of the judgement after two conforming sentences. In this paper, we shall restrict our reflections to the first period in the process, namely, the introductory or the initial phase. This introductory phase, which takes distinct acts that a judge must place. They are (i) the admission/rejection of libellus, (ii) the citation of the respondent, and (iii) the litis contenstatio (the joinder of issues) or the formulation of doubt.

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1. For more on etymology of the terms, see M.J. ARROBA CONDE, Diritto processuale canonico, seconda edizione, Roma, EDIURCLA, 1994, pp. 33-44.

2. Certain matrimonial nullity cases can be processed through the documentary process (cann. 1686-1688). But, cases for the declaration of nullity of marriage cannot be dealt with by the oral contentious process (can. 1690).

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