Can a catholic lawyer handle divorce cases?


#1

thanks


#2

Depends on what the reason behind the divorce is.

If a divorce is being sought to protect an innocent spouse or children from grave physical or moral danger – beatings, sexual abuse, alcohol/drug abuse, criminal activity, etc. – it is not contrary to Church law. Civil divorce decrees are sometimes necessary to protect the legal rights of persons separated from their spouses with regard to alimony, child support, visitation, property distribution, and other matters. In such cases a Catholic attorney could rightfully assist an innocent spouse in protecting their legal rights.

If the divorce is being sought without serious reason – for example, a man who is having an affair and wants to leave his wife for his partner in adultery – or primarily to facilitate an attempted remarriage, I would say a Catholic attorney should steer clear of those cases.

Pope John Paul II did make some pretty strong statements about divorce being an “evil” which Catholic attorneys should not participate in. However, he was speaking in the context of addressing a “culture of divorce” so in all probability he was thinking mainly of divorces that are avoidable, that occur for less than serious reasons, or that take place with the intent of remarriage.


#3

I’ve wondered the same thing. I have a question:

What should a Christian/Catholic lawyer do if they’re told by the senior law partner that they have to sue a church?


#4

Why would a church be sued? The only way would be if it as an institution has been accused of behaviour which is criminal or tortious or in breach of a legally binding contract.

Assuming that the wrong alleged is a genuine wrong and it is not, for example, a matter of a Catholic diocese being sued for discrimination for not ordaining women priests or the like, then of course it can and should be sued for its wrongs.

As human institutions churches and church leaders are not above being made to adhere to their legal and contractual obligations. On the contrary, Paul tells us we are all to be subject to legitimate authority, including that of the state when it is exercised legitimately.


#5

Hmmm… That is a good question. I would imagine that the answer would be yes. The Church does not recognize civil divorce and would therefore see the marriage remaining in effect. What is the Church’s position on a couple who civilly divorce? Is the divorce itself a sin or does the sin come into play with remarriage, dating, etc.? If the Church doesn’t hold the view that the couple who are divorcing are sinning, I can’t imagine that the attorneys that the couple use to facilitate this would be sinning. However, if the Church views divorce itself as sinful, then perhaps a Catholic lawyer should avoid “family law.”

That would then raise another question though. If the divorce itself is a sin, then what of a wife who is trying to escape an abusive marriage? Is she considered to be sinning if she files for divorce? I know that some will immediately chime in and say, “No, because she has the right not to be abused” and they of course would be correct. However, can she not simply separate and leave the husband without filing for divorce thus avoid the sin of divorce? Of course that would create all kinds of legal issues as well. Would she continue to be held accountable for debts incurred by the husband? Is she or is the husband entitled to social security benefits if one or the other dies or is unable to work? Would she want her estranged husband having a claim to an inheritance she hoped to leave her children when she passed away? Additionally, isn’t one of the preliminary requirements for an annulment that the couple must first be divorced? I don’t believe that the Church would be telling couples to sin (divorce) before they can have the Tribunal examine their marriage. :confused:


#6

Of course the Church doesn’t view civil divorce as sinful in and of itself. On the contrary, in the catechism it recognises the necessity, at times, of civil divorce, in order to protect the physical and material wellbeing of spouses or children of the marriage.

More than that, it does (as you have said it might) require that those who seek a Church annulment first go through a civil divorce.


#7

I believe the main reasons most diocesan Tribunals insist that a civil divorce be finalized before they take on an annulment case are 1) to avoid any legal conflict or confusion, and 2) to confirm that there is very little if any possibility of reconciliation. The Church would not want to start an annulment proceeding if there was still a chance the couple could work things out. All marriages recognized by the Church are presumed to be valid until proven otherwise.

The notion that divorce itself is a mortal sin that incurs excommunication is one of the most persistent errors Catholics and non-Catholics make regarding Church teaching on marriage. One more time folks: you aren’t excluded from Communion for being divorced, but for being REMARRIED outside the Church; and seeking a civil divorce is NOT a sin if done for serious reasons.


#8

I know some of these lawyer…

family divorce lawyer


#9

That requirement exists only in the US. Otherwise the opposite is more likely to be the case, which I believe to be a better solution. First confirm that the marriage is null, only then dissolve it at civil law. Otherwise you may end up divorced civilly bad validly married.


#10

[quote="chevalier, post:9, topic:168807"]
That requirement exists only in the US. Otherwise the opposite is more likely to be the case, which I believe to be a better solution. First confirm that the marriage is null, only then dissolve it at civil law. Otherwise you may end up divorced civilly bad validly married.

[/quote]

And in that case, you may not remarry, but you may receive the sacraments. I see no problem with that outcome. The vows you took originally are still valid. So you may not overwrite them.

In the opposite situation, you might not be granted a degree of nullity and then will believe that you cannot divorce, what if there is violence, adultery, etc.?


#11

[quote="TheRealJuliane, post:10, topic:168807"]
And in that case, you may not remarry, but you may receive the sacraments. I see no problem with that outcome. The vows you took originally are still valid. So you may not overwrite them.

In the opposite situation, you might not be granted a degree of nullity and then will believe that you cannot divorce, what if there is violence, adultery, etc.?

[/quote]

The problem is that a divorce decree from a civil court is required in any case that reaches a tribunal, even if the couple concerned would prefer not to divorce, should their marriage fail to prove null. This is how you'd do it where I live. First the tribunal, only then the state's divorce court--if the marriage proves null. Personally, I too would prefer to have my nullity allegation adjudicated before filing for divorce.

Violence is not a ground of nullity and neither is adultery (and you actually may not seek a divorce just because adultery has occurred). Violence may be a ground to seek divorce without moral fault, but that would require divorce to be the only way to avoid further violence, not a psychological reward/relief kind of thing as in symbollic cutting of ties, or giving primacy to the civil law reality (i.e. unmarried) over the sacramental and canon law reality (married). In canon law itself there is no divorce (even with a prohibition against remarrying), there is only separation, and for a reason.


#12

The canons on this subject very clearly indicate that civil divorce must be the only way to protect the rights of the aggrieved party. Thank you for pointing this out.

More importantly, the Church, at least in my experience with pastoral staff and even up through my local diocese, does not understand the horrible practical impilcations imposed on a family by the civil court, particularly on fathers.


#13

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