Similar to the civil government, the Church has a system of courts to handle cases according to the canon law of the Church. Being the salvific agent in the world, the Church has the right and duty to protect the dignity of the sacraments and to safeguard the rights of every member of the Church.
In each diocese the bishop is the chief Teacher and Shepherd for that portion of God’s people. At times it becomes necessary for the Bishop to decide whether the teaching and sanctifying mission of the Church is being carried out in accordance with the Gospel message, Sacred Traditions, and the teachings (magisterium) of the Church. In this regard he acts as the chief Judge concerning the practice of the Christian faith.
Since the Bishop cannot personally act as judge in all these matters (because of the large number of cases), he delegates certain individuals as members of the Tribunal to act in his name. In the tribunal we have Judicial Vicar, Judges, Defenders of the bond, Advocates and Canonical Consultants.
The Tribunal of the Diocese of Orlando the office (court) designated to investigate marriages (and other cases) that fall within its competence, i.e., the marriage was contracted in the Diocese or either one of the spouses is domiciled (legally resides) within the Diocese.
Most of the issues presented to the Tribunal for judgment are those which deal with the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage. Persons who believe that their marriages were not validly celebrated according to the teachings of the Church, and therefore invalid in the eyes of God and the Church, petition the tribunal to declare their marriages null and void. The work of the tribunal, for the most part, involves the process of investigating and discerning the truth of such petitions.