The New Zealand Catholic Bishops have decided the marriage tribunal will no longer charge fees for the marriage annulment process.
Cardinal John Dew, Moderator of the Tribunal, announced the decision on behalf of the Bishops saying “The Tribunal process is an important pastoral ministry within the Church at a very difficult time in people’s lives seeking an annulment of their marriage. The Bishops wanted to ensure that cost was no longer a barrier to people seeking an annulment.”
Those who are currently undertaking an annulment process have been informed by Tribunal staff of the change directly in relation to their particular circumstances.
This decision was made at the April meeting of the Bishops conference and time was needed to seek expert advice on tax matters and to inform current clients.
“We acknowledge that the fees people have paid in the past have helped in the development of the tribunal process that we have today.” Cardinal John said.
“The six Dioceses have always funded the bulk of the costs associated with the Tribunals operation. The Dioceses have pressures of their own, so we will need to find a way to fund what had previously been covered by the fees.”
“We will not be seeking or accepting donations from clients of the Tribunal. A donation is given without receiving a service in return. As clients of the Tribunal do receive a service, Inland Revenue would have an interest in whether in fact a donation by a client is actually a disguised fee without a GST component. Our decision to drop fees for annulments is purely pastoral: it is not an attempt to evade tax responsibilities. The bishops will decide later this year whether they will ask the wider Catholic community for help in supporting the work of the Tribunal.” He said.
The annulment process is undertaken following a civil divorce. Those who would like to know more about engaging in this process should contact their local Diocesan office of the Tribunal. Details are also available on www.catholic.org.nz