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  #1  
Old May 25, '11, 12:18 pm
FirstCalled FirstCalled is offline
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Default Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

My sister is considering a divorce. In our eyes she will still be married. However my mother says that the Church does not recognize civil marriages, and says that an annulment would not be necessary. I think that the marriage sacrament is between the two people and not done by a priest.
So would she need an annulment?
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  #2  
Old May 25, '11, 12:26 pm
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Brendan Brendan is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

It would depend.

If your sister or her husband are Catholic, they are bound by Church law in respect to the Form of Marriage.

The Church will recognize a civil marriage if there was a Dispensation from Form granted by the bishop.

If both or either party are Catholic, and a Dispensation from Form was not obtained from the bishop, the marriage would most likely be invalid due to lack of Canonical Form.

If both parties are not Catholic, then they are not bound by Church Canon Law and the Church would recognize their marriage as valid.

A priest can advise in more depth, and the final decision would have to come from a Diocesan Marriage Tribunal.
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  #3  
Old May 25, '11, 12:28 pm
1ke 1ke is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
My sister is considering a divorce. In our eyes she will still be married. However my mother says that the Church does not recognize civil marriages, and says that an annulment would not be necessary. I think that the marriage sacrament is between the two people and not done by a priest. So would she need an annulment?
No one here can make a determination regarding the validity of a specific marriage. We can suggest that your sister go talk to a priest.

You have left out many details including the baptismal status of both parties, whether or not canon law requirements were followed if one or both were Catholics, any prior bonds or impediments, etc.

Here are some generalities regarding marriage:
  • The Church recognizes as valid a marriage between two non-Catholics who are otherwise free to marry (no prior marriage or other impediments) regardless of whether they exchange vows in a religious ceremony or before civil authorities. If both parties are baptized, the marriage is valid and a sacrament. If one or neither are baptized, the marriage is valid and a natural marriage.
  • The Church recognizes as valid those marriages between Catholics, or between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, where canon law is followed including all necessary premarital paperwork, determination of freedom to marry, and any dispensations or permissions needed regarding the marriage.
  • The Church recognizes as invalid marriages involving a Catholic or Catholics when the Catholic party did not follow canon law and obtain required permissions and dispensations. In some countries (such as the US) Catholics who were in an invalid marriage due to marrying outside the Church (called 'lack of form') must complete a paperwork process with their diocese to be declared free to marry. So, while there is no decree of nullity, there is paperwork.
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ke's universal disclaimer: In my posts, when I post about marriage, canon law, or sacraments I am talking about Latin Rite only, not the Orthodox and Eastern Rites. These are exceptions that confuse the issue and I am not talking about those.
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  #4  
Old May 25, '11, 12:28 pm
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Chris Etzel Chris Etzel is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

My heart goes out to your sister and family. Divorce is messy and unpleasant (although abuse and other factors IN a marriage may be worse).

The Church assumes a marriage between two Baptized Christians to be valid, regardless of whether it was civil or not, until otherwise determined in a Tribunal.

The only reason she would need to seek an annulment is if she chose to re-marry. Regardless, she should speak to a priest. He can answer these questions (and hopefully counsel your sister and her husband).
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  #5  
Old May 25, '11, 12:36 pm
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
My sister is considering a divorce. In our eyes she will still be married. However my mother says that the Church does not recognize civil marriages, and says that an annulment would not be necessary. I think that the marriage sacrament is between the two people and not done by a priest.
So would she need an annulment?
not enough info
is the sister Catholic
is the husband Catholic
were they married in the Catholic Church
were they married civilly

what you or your mother think or what anyone here thinks is irrelevant. The party in question needs to bring the situation to her priest, if she is Catholic, for guidance.
If she is a Catholic, or her husband is, and they were not married according to Catholic canon law, then they are not validly married. If she divorces and at some point wishes to marry again, she will have to apply for a declaration of invalidity due to lack of form before she is free to marry in the Church. That is not an annullment investigation, it is a paperwork process, but it is still necessary. However that is her problem, not yours, not your mother's
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  #6  
Old May 25, '11, 12:36 pm
The Old Medic The Old Medic is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Assuming that she is Catholic, and was married by a Judge, Justice of the Peace or the equivalent, or by a Protestant Minister, etc.

An annulment, no. BUT she WILL have to get a decree of Invalidity/Nullity. That means that the Church will look into the circumstances, and declare that this marriage was not considered to be valid by the Catholic Church.

If she fails to disclose that marriage to any Priest/Deacon, and marries in the Church, she will have committed a Mortal Sin.

I had to obtain this before I could marry in the Church. It took about 3 months (most of that time was getting the statement from the church where i was first married that it was NOT Catholic).

The Church does recognize that Civil Marriages are legal marriages under civil law, and that any requirements of a divorce may be binding upon the parties (such as child support, spousal support, division of marital property, etc.).
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  #7  
Old May 25, '11, 12:50 pm
FirstCalled FirstCalled is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by puzzleannie View Post
not enough info
is the sister Catholic
is the husband Catholic
were they married in the Catholic Church
were they married civilly

what you or your mother think or what anyone here thinks is irrelevant. The party in question needs to bring the situation to her priest, if she is Catholic, for guidance.
If she is a Catholic, or her husband is, and they were not married according to Catholic canon law, then they are not validly married. If she divorces and at some point wishes to marry again, she will have to apply for a declaration of invalidity due to lack of form before she is free to marry in the Church. That is not an annullment investigation, it is a paperwork process, but it is still necessary. However that is her problem, not yours, not your mother's
My sister received the regular sacraments but left the Church prior to her marriage. Her husband is not Catholic and I do not believe he has been baptized. There were married only civilly.
This is a legalese question I suppose. I am curious to know if the Church would believe if she were to leave him, and find and marry another man, than in the Church's and my eyes would she still be married to her first husband.
I appreciate your thoughts and prayers on this matter.
I wish her all the happiness in the world in her marriage, and do not want to see them part ways.
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  #8  
Old May 25, '11, 1:02 pm
Spirithound Spirithound is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
My sister received the regular sacraments but left the Church prior to her marriage. Her husband is not Catholic and I do not believe he has been baptized. There were married only civilly.
This is a legalese question I suppose. I am curious to know if the Church would believe if she were to leave him, and find and marry another man, than in the Church's and my eyes would she still be married to her first husband.
I appreciate your thoughts and prayers on this matter.
I wish her all the happiness in the world in her marriage, and do not want to see them part ways.
Since your sister likely did not bother to get a dispensation, her first marriage was invalid. She needs to take this to the marriage tribunal for a formal declaration.
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  #9  
Old May 25, '11, 3:57 pm
1ke 1ke is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
My sister received the regular sacraments but left the Church prior to her marriage. Her husband is not Catholic and I do not believe he has been baptized. There were married only civilly.
If your Catholic sister did not follow Catholic Church law on marriage, it is not a valid marriage. Marrying civilly may or may not mean she did not follow Church law-- a Catholic can receive a dispensation from Catholic form to marry a non-Catholic in a civil ceremony for a good reason. Your comment that she left the Church prior to marriage indicates she likely did not follow Church law and has an invalid marriage.

But, she would need to complete a lack of form case to be declared free to marry in the Church.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
I am curious to know if the Church would believe if she were to leave him, and find and marry another man, than in the Church's and my eyes would she still be married to her first husband.
No, she would not be considered married to the first husband if she did not marry according to Church law. But neither would she be considered married to the second man if she doesn't reconcile with the Church and marry according to Church law.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
I appreciate your thoughts and prayers on this matter.
I wish her all the happiness in the world in her marriage, and do not want to see them part ways.
Encourage her to reconcile with her spouse and then reconcile with the Church and convalidate their marriage.
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Pax, ke

ke's universal disclaimer: In my posts, when I post about marriage, canon law, or sacraments I am talking about Latin Rite only, not the Orthodox and Eastern Rites. These are exceptions that confuse the issue and I am not talking about those.
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  #10  
Old May 26, '11, 4:32 am
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Brendan Brendan is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
This is a legalese question I suppose. I am curious to know if the Church would believe if she were to leave him, and find and marry another man, than in the Church's and my eyes would she still be married to her first husband.
If she is Catholic and didn't get a dispensation from form for her civil marriage, she really doesn't have a 'first husband'. She's is not married in the eyes of the Church nor of God.
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  #11  
Old May 26, '11, 4:39 am
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
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Default Re: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church

Quote:
Originally Posted by FirstCalled View Post
I appreciate your thoughts and prayers on this matter.
I wish her all the happiness in the world in her marriage, and do not want to see them part ways.
they are not my thoughts, they are Catholic canon law binding on Catholics. If she decides to attempt marriage again that union will also be invalid unless she adheres to the law of the Church. Rather than worrying about a prospective marriage worry about her return to communion with the Church and to Christ's grace through his sacraments. Patrick Madrid's book Search and Rescue is an excellent guide on what to say, and what not to say, to family members who are falling away from the faith.
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