It would be nice if annulments were available to all of the faithful and no just those who are able to pay thousands(ex. Teddy “the swimmer”) for a “buyout”. This won’t happen anytime soon.
I've known folks who obtained annulments. Ordinarly, middle class people. The process didn't cost a lot of money. Pretty much under a thousand dollars in every case about which I know.
Each diocese incurs costs in the administration of its marriage tribunal. The fees charged for the annulment process typically don't cover the diocese's costs to perform the process. In other words, most dioceses lose money on the administration of their tribunal.
I imagine that the process could be expensive in some cases, where there are facts in dispute, where one or the other party is hostile, and where people “lawyer-up” the process. I don't know what safeguards, if any, dioceses provide to prevent that sort of thing, and if there are few, then I imagine it probably happens from time to time.
But I've known a fair number of folks who have obtained declarations of nullity for previous ostensible marriages, and in no case with which I'm familiar was the cost high.
As well, for folks with low income, most local dioceses will reduce or even waive costs.
A quick google returns a document from the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, which handles annulment cases in the archdiocese, stating that the cost of the annulment process in that archdiocese is $550, which includes a non-refundable filing fee. It also states:
"In the case of financial hardship, the Petitioner may receive a waiver for a portion of the costs (excluding the filing fee). The Petitioner will be asked to write a letter to the Tribunal explaining the financial hardship and send their most recent Federal W2 or Form 1040."
My wife’s annulment cost $250.00. It was a rather lengthy procedure and certainly was not rubber-stamped. In the end the only reason she was granted the annulment is because she proved that her husband, who was Catholic, refused to go to Mass from the minute they were married. She had to get all kinds of statements from people who could attest to the fact that not only was he a liar and never intended to live the life of a Catholic, but he was also a miserable SOB, which was well-stated in the majority of the letters of support she got from friends and family members. The process took two years.