There are two types of Cases that meet the criteria of Documentary Cases. The First is Lack of Form Cases and the Second is Ligamen Cases.
Lack of Form
A Lack of Form Case can only be invoked when one of the parties of the union was Catholic at the time of the marriage. By Church Law, a Catholic party is required to follow the “form” of marriage. This “form” of marriage requires a Catholic to have the marriage witnessed by a Catholic priest or deacon. If the marriage vows are exchanged by an individual other than a Catholic Priest or deacon (i.e. a civil official or minister of a non-Catholic Church), and there was no dispensation granted for such, this may constitute a lack of form case. It is the policy in the Archdiocese of Atlanta that this investigation be conducted by Tribunal personnel.
To submit a Lack of Form case, there is a form (petition) to complete that is provided by the Case Sponsor. Included with the submission of the form should be: the marriage certificate, final divorce decree with the signature of the judge, and the original of a recently updated baptismal certificate (issued within the past 6 months) for the Catholic party(ies). Upon receipt, the Tribunal will contact all dioceses that serve the area(s) where the couple lived during the marriage.
Prior Bond is a process to show the marriage in question was invalid because the ex- spouse was bound by a prior valid bond (marriage). For you (the Petitioner) this means that your ex-spouse (the Respondent) was validly married before you married them. The documents needed for the marriage of you and your ex-spouse are: the application for that marriage license, the marriage certificate and the final divorce decree signed by the judge. In addition, the same documents (i.e. the application for the marriage license, marriage certificate and final divorce decree (signed by the judge) for the union of the Respondent and their previous spouse must also be provided.
The Tribunal may request the testimony of witnesses for the ex-spouse’s (Respondent’s) previous marriage. If the Respondent’s PRIOR union (marriage) is determined by the Tribunal to be VALID, then the marriage between you (the Petitioner) and your ex-spouse (the Respondent) is rendered INVALID because of the previous valid marriage of the Respondent.
In certain circumstances, a case submitted on the grounds of prior bond may have to be evaluated through the ordinary or formal process.