Jurisdiction: Church Tribunal

Understanding Jurisdiction

Just as in the civil forum, a Church Tribunal is only permitted by the law to conduct business appropriate to that particular tribunal. As regards marriage, there are some basic ‘rules’ by which jurisdiction to consider a petition is obtained. These can be found in canon 1672 (revised by Pope Francis in Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, 2015).

The Tribunal of the diocese where the original marriage occurred always has the competence to take up a petition regarding that act of consent. Regardless of whether the marriage took place in the Catholic Church, another faith community, a courthouse, or a back yard, the location of the wedding determines which Tribunal has the first obligation to consider the matter.

Because people move from place to place for any number of reasons, the second Tribunal with jurisdiction is where the Petitioner or Respondent (the non-petitioning party) maintains his or her ordinary residence (called a domicile or quasi-domicile by the Church). It is appropriate that the closest Tribunal that can serve the needs one or both of the parties would have a natural obligation to render assistance.

Finally, the third Tribunal which has jurisdiction is that where the greatest number of proofs can be gathered. Perhaps a couple dated, courted, and prepared for marriage on a college campus where most of their family and witnesses still reside. Then, the couple, for sentimental reasons only, returned to a distant diocese to marry where Grandma or Grandpa married. The couple now lives in a third location. In such a case, the place where the couple met, dated, and agreed to marry could be competent to receive a petition.

Please note: when determining jurisdiction, the law considers where a person lives, not what parish he or she attends regularly or is registered with. Please see the map of all Ohio counties below to determine which diocese you live in.

Ohio Diocesan county map