The following comes from a December 10 Catholic News Agency article by Elise Harris:

With the launch of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis’ reforms to the annulment process have gone into effect, giving more of a role to the local bishop, dropping automatic appeals, and ensuring that the process is free of charge.

Among the more significant changes the Pope made were dropping the automatic appeal needed after a decision on nullity has been reached, as well as allowing local bishops to make their own judgements on “evident” cases of marriage nullity.

Until now, once a decision had been made to declare a marriage null, the ruling was automatically appealed to another body, a practice many have blamed for unnecessary delays in the process.

With Francis’ new changes, only one judgement will be needed. However, in the case that it is appealed, the Pope said that appeals can be done in the nearest metropolitan diocese, rather than needing to go to Rome.

He also decided that each diocese throughout the world will have the responsibility to name a judge or tribunal to process incoming cases.

The bishop can be the only judge, or he can establish a three-member tribunal. If a three-member tribunal is established, it must have at least one cleric, while the other two members can be laypersons.

Francis has also declared that the annulment process will be free of charge. Although the practice is already in place in many dioceses around the world, the new change makes it universal.