Am I even married at all?


My husband has been married three times, before me.
He was civilly divorced in each instance. He is not Catholic or even Christian in any way shape or form, but was baptised as an infant in the Church of England.

When we were married, civilly, his first wife was still alive. First wedding was proper C of E. Then she died a couple of years after our civil wedding.
Second and third wives are still alive.
My question:

If our marriage was invalid when we civilly contracted it, (because first wife was still alive and Church considered them still married, not to mention the Lack of Form issue since I am Catholic), did we start being married when wife number one died, automatically?
As if on a conveyer belt?

Or perhaps, Is he now considered married to his second wife, (wedding was proper Methodist) rather than me? As if on a conveyer belt…

I’ve spoken to a priest about annulments and all in an effort to be convalidated. I’m waiting on documents right now. I was told the second and third marriages were invalid and only had to be documented, and that we would be offered a convalidation upon acceptance of the proper death documents.

But overthinking the other day, led me to this question.

Am I even married at all?


I am not sure where you got your information about the 2nd and 3rd marriages being invalid because I’m not sure this is true.

A bond of marriage is dissoluble only by death (or, if one/both parties is not baptized, through the Pauline/Petrine privileges). Consequently your husband’s first bond of marriage has ended. However, it must be demonstrated that the 2nd and 3rd marriages were not valid. If his 2nd marriage was found to be invalid, his 3rd marriage still could have been. Still, I would recommend looking to your priest/bishop/tribunal to determine the exact status of your marriage. At this point, my best understanding is that your current marriage is invalid.


You don’t mention if you yourself have ever been married before.

It is possible that if and only if all three of your husband’s previous marriages were invalid, then when you contracted marriage with him, it was valid. Given the death of his first wife you may never know for sure now.

Were you baptized Catholic when you civilly married? That would also make it invalid.


No. For two reasons: first, because there were two attempts at marriage between number one and you, either of which could be valid. Secondly, because you are catholic, even if the other two marriages were not valid, yours requires Catholic form to be valid.


Not correct.

Marriages 2 and 3 will each require tribunal investigation sequentially, and determination of validity will have to be made for each (unless 2 is found to be valid, in which case no need to examine 3). The baptismal statuses of wives 2 and 3 could also put the Petrine Privilege in play as a possible recourse

Civilly? Yes.

Validly? No.

Given the complex nature of this specific situation, it is best that you speak with a competent canon lawyer in your diocese. Parish priests can handle the routine issues, but are just not equipped with such specialized training as a complex case demands.


In my opinion you are not married. You need to contact the local Catholic Marriage Tribunal. Your husband will probably have to seek an annulment from two and three and then you two would have to be married in the Catholic Church. At the very least, your current marriage, even without the prior marriages of your husband would be invalid since Catholics are required to have a Catholic priest or Deacon as their witness. You should not receive the sacraments until you get all this straightened out, but do attend Church.



that is not for us to say. the OP should talk to her pastor for guidance on the matter.


I was Catholic when married to my husband.
I did have a first marriage, which was invalid due to Lack of Form, as well as other reasons in terms of his not being open to children, and lying about that, as well as insisting on ABC at all times, not to mention the deceit and abuse. But the Lack of Form means that it was invalid beyond that.

I think the assumption that his second and third marriages were invalid is because his first wife was still alive. When they were contracted. The first wife only died after he contracted his fourth marriage, with me…(I know, I know, I took an incredible risk!)

I was told that the arch diocese I reside in now is a rather liberal one. The priest I spoke to is on the tribunal, or at least connected to it in some way. It was he who told me that the two intervening marriages were invalid and only had to be documented. He also told me that all could be regularised where I live now, and not in the country any of the marriages were contracted in.

So if he is still validly married to the second wife, and not me, if we were divorced, I would not need a decree of annulment? Not that I would EVER try again…

I have asked questions on my situation on this forum before, and I thought I knew what was what. But now with my ability to overthink things… It never before occurred to me that he was actually still officially married to his second and not to me…:blush:

Thanks for the answers. I guess I will just abide with whatever the tribunal where I am now says. If I do that, am I safe in a real sacramental, cosmic, God’s desire sort of way?

I don’t want to find out when it is too late that I did the wrong thing.
And thanks, I understand about not taking the sacraments.


Not validly, no.

There are several possible scenarios, here, and in order to know for sure what your situation is, you need a ruling from the Marriage Tribunal.

First, your husband is a widower, and single.

Second, your husband is validly married to wife #2, if the marriage to wife #1 was not valid, and he was free to marry the second. The only thing that can dissolve a valid marriage is the death of one of the two parties.

Third, your husband is validly married to wife #3. (Ditto my comment above about wife #2.)

Fourth, your husband is single and has never been validly married.

To complicate things even more, if it is found that your husband has never been validly married, even after having attempted marriage four times, the possibility exists that your husband is emotionally or morally incapable of contracting a valid marriage.

The Marriage Tribunal will need to investigate all of his marriages thoroughly to discern whether he is currently free to marry, and whether he is able to contract a valid marriage with you.

If “yes” to both, then you can start marriage classes and prepare for a Catholic wedding in the Church, after which, you can then consider yourself validly married.

Until then, keep coming to Sunday Mass every Sunday, and make a spiritual communion.


With God, all things are possible. Just do everything you can to try to get back into God’s grace - if you do your best, He will do the rest.


Although I know a bit about his previous marriages, I do not know everything…
BUT, having said that, I thunk there might be grounds for the first marriage not being valid.

However, I have never heard anything to suggest that the second was not a real marriage contracted in full mature consent before a pastor of the Methodist church by two validly baptised adults.

So, having said that, I now think I need to bring up this second wife possibility with the powers that be, when I get the documents in. Again, it has never occurred to me, this being still validly married to the second wife.

I admit, I was not a very good Catholic for a long time. I’m not making excuses. I am a sinner…
But I do want to be able to partake of the sacraments, and my faith has grown very strong in the past three years. I want to return and do penance, and get away from the quagmire of mortal sin I allowed myself to get into.

My husband, however is not religious in anyway, and has agreed to be convalidated for my sake. But he’s not interested in pursuing annulments for his marriages, since he doesn’t hold the RCC to have any authority.

I do love my husband, but I admit that things have been a little rough lately for various reasons. If he is free to marry after investigation, Is it possible that the Church would refuse a convalidation because he has been married so many times before? Would it be refused on the basis that he is not capable of marriage?
Gosh, I don’t know what I would do then. To stay married to him would mean I am in big trouble. My very soul is in peril, and cannot be remedied without divorce.

If this happens, would the church justify a civil divorce? Is there no sin in tearing two loving people apart when no other party wants to claim either of them?

I am still over thinking…and worried.

What about the idea of the tribunal being more liberal than it should…am I in danger if they rule incorrectly?

I will discuss this latest wrinkle with a spiritual director. Thank you all.


I think you’re in a terrible situation. The best you can do right now is stay where you are, and give God time to act in your life. Let Him be the miracle worker; don’t try to push things along on your own timeline.

I am still over thinking…and worried.

What about the idea of the tribunal being more liberal than it should…am I in danger if they rule incorrectly?

Obedience to lawful authority is never a sin, even if the lawful authority is wrong, unless you have a firm conviction that they are asking you to commit an actual sin.

In this case, if the Tribunal rules in your favour, it would not be a sin to act in accordance with their ruling, since this is not a case that you are competent to judge by yourself. It is clear from the Scriptures and from the histories of the Saints that God honours the obedient with grace and favour.

I will discuss this latest wrinkle with a spiritual director. Thank you all.

That’s an excellent idea. I would also recommend you to pray the Rosary daily, and attend Mass as often as you can. Being in the Presence will help to clear your mind.


It is not unheard of to have a vetitum or monitum imposed for various circumstances, but there is simply no way for us here to know if that is a real possibility in your case. It would likely depend on whether your husband or you have deep-seated psychological issues such as alcoholism, physical abuse, etc.



I thought the assumption was that a marriage is valid until proven otherwise.

So wouldn’t his first marriage be assumed to be valid? And if so, wouldn’t all subsequent marriage attempts be considered invalid without a Tribunal investigation?

And since his first wife is now deceased, wouldn’t he be considered a widower? Why would a Tribunal even consider looking into the 2nd and 3rd marriages? Or are they expected to consider the validity of a marriage that is presumed valid though ended by death of the wife? That doesn’t make sense :shrug:

I know that many of my fellow CAF members are waaaay more knowledgeable than I about such things, but investigating the validity of marriages 2, 3, or 4 seems a moot point – unless they’re also going to check the validity of marriage #1, which by death is already over, and therefore a moot point.



Life can get a little Complicated , good luck… Hope this works out for the better,


Thanks for all the replies.
I will sit still for a while, at least. Other things are going on in our circumstances that need to be resolved one way or another.

There is no addiction, drinking, abuse involved with either of us. Just perhaps, his being in love with love.

I’ve not been a bad person, but always tried to make decisions based on making as many people as happy as possible. Including staying when I shouldn’t have. I hate to hurt someone; I’m not good at it.
My decisions just haven’t always been in line with Church teaching.

I’m just the average middle aged woman trying to make it through. But that’s why they call it the road to perdition, I think…(sigh)
I feel pretty paralysed these days anyway…

I am not able to go to mass except occasionally when traveling. I live in a very remote area and cannot get to church without incurring a hotel stay. Getting to town costs $60.00 anyway.

But I do pray the rosary, often, daily. I pray all the time some days.
I will have the opportunity to seek counsel in a different diocese than where I live. I will take it up with a pastor I have already contacted. I hope I can find some resolution to it all…thank you again.


I am sure that was the assumption, but it is a wrong assumption. It would be the wrong assumption were his first wife still alive, and moreso now that she is deceased.

All I can tell you is that he is mistaken.

That is accurate, nullity cases can take place in several jurisdictions, one of which is the diocese in which the petitioner resides.

As to your diocese being “liberal” (whatever that really means) I don’t really see how that matters, any case adjudicated there would still have to go to a court of second instance, and of course any case can be appealed to the Rota in Rome. So if the implication of “liberal” is “easy annulment” I am afraid that is a mistaken notion. Even if the first court took a wide view of the law, the case would still be independently reviewed elsewhere.

Correct. But not because of his prior marriages, but rather because of your Catholicity. If you were not Catholic, then yes you would indeed need a tribunal examination of all the marriages to sort out your current status.

If you and he are honest in the proceedings, then yes.


If you were Catholic when you attempted marriage with a civil ceremony without the approval of the Catholic Church, then you are certainly not married validly now or before.

A convalidation is a new marriage from the moment of the grant. With a simple convalidation new consent is given. For a retroactive convalidation the previous consent is used, as long as it still exists.


I find that highly unlikely, especially given that he is already civilly married to you.

I would suggest you stop thinking along theses lines. Sometimes people posting here dont think before they post and needlessly worry others with random, unlikely scenarios. I mean it’s possible I might walk outside and get hit by a meteor tomorrow, but really when we say possible we simply mean that technically it is not impossible rather than it is in any way actually going to happen.

yes, you are. And I suggest you move on from this thread, which in all likelihood will continue with wild speculation that cannot be verified.



Marriage enjoys the favor of the law.

His first marriage would enjoy the favor of the law, yes. However, his first marriage ended with the death of his spouse, therefore that marriage no longer exists.

No, the law makes no assumptions, only determinations based on facts. We do not assume or presume anything about any of the marriages.


Because they exist.

The first marriage is not a factor any longer.

marriage two and three must be investigated. It is possible for one of them to have been valid.


1ke, I’m not following your posts.

The first wife was alive during marriage 2 and 3, based on information contained in the OP. If the first marriage is determined to be valid, then obviously marriages 2 and 3 are invalid. In that case, the fact that the wife #1 is dead is not relevant to marriages 2 and 3, because he was not free to marry them, and because objectively invalid marriage don’t become retroactively valid.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit