Complicated Annulment Situation


Hi there,
So Im a protrestan that is engaged to a Catholic and I can not find the answer to our slightly complicated marriage situation. We are both divorced, myself once and he twice. Neither time was he married in the catholic church nor did he get a dispensation. I obviously was not married in the catholic church and had a civil union with my ex husband.

Now here’s the monkey wrench. My ex husband was previously married to a woman who also was previously married and divorced. What Im trying to understand before proceeding to get an annulment from the Catholic church so that I can marry my fiance in the church, what marriage would be considered valid in my situation?

Would my marriage to my ex husband (non catholic) be considered valid since he married a woman that didn’t get an annulment (also non catholic) from her first marriage? Or is mine still considered invalid because he had been married without an annulment?

Im trying to get an estimate of if I will have to go through the regular process or maybe be able to have a brief process because my marriage wouldn’t be considered valid

Im very fascinated by the doctrine and law of the catholic church on this. Its amazing that the spread of divorce goes so far in the entire situation between all of us.

Thanks for any insight!


Speak with your priest and let him give you accurate information.


The priest will know the correct questions to ask in order to assess each situation. Sometimes it is not a priest with whom you will speak but a trained layperson.


Agree with the others; start with a priest, as you’re likely to get wildly varying responses here.

My best guess is that the man you wish to marry would simply have both previous attempts at marriage on his part declared null due to lack of form.

Your previous marriage would be more involved in terms of the investigation, but I think (again, not the expert here) that it would be a relatively clear case once the facts were proven that yours was invalid as well due to your previous husband lacking the freedom to marry.


All the marriages get investigated, in order, one at a time.

Regarding your ex who had a previous marriage, that could be petitioned as a case of Ligamen, but you need proof (i.e. documentation such as marriage and divorce decrees). You would also have to go back to his ex and that marriage to verify whether her prior marriage had any impediments such as her first husband having an ex of his own, or any of the parties being Catholic, and of course also verifying that all the parties are still living. If there was a death in there, that could render the Ligamen case moot depending on when it occurred.

Here’s a document that explains Ligamen:

You are correct that this is somewhat complicated/convoluted, but it’s nothing the tribunal hasn’t seen before. Also note that if you can’t prove a Ligamen case, then you go through the full case process.

Don’t be reluctant to start this process or talk to the priest. The internet is truly not the best place to seek out information, because you will get some wrong information or information that turns out not to apply to you once all the facts are known concretely by the tribunal.

Please have your Catholic fiance make an appointment with his priest as soon as possible. You both need to be declared free to marry before making any solid wedding plans.


We are supposedly going Thursday but I was just curious before hand what the general thought might be.


2 more things to add

  1. do grounds for declaring a marriage invalid under canonical law such as fraud, etc, not just previously marriage spply to other non catholic marriages in the eyes of the tribunal?

Which leads me to this question.

  1. my exs first wife’s ex husband was gay and denied her marital rights and kids. Doesn’t this fall under the canonical law for annulment because of those things?

And therefore that would make her marriage valid to my ex husband?


Yes. That would apply to everyone.

What are called “divine law” impediments apply to everyone, not just Catholics.

What we call “ecclesial law” would apply only to Catholics (such as a Catholic has to get married in Catholic form or get a dispensation).

I would not want to speculate on that at all. Especially because that marriage may not fall under the tribunal’s jurisdiction. It would be presumed valid until it was proven otherwise.

Honestly, the more questions you ask, the more you are just going to get into speculative territory that we really can’t answer.

I understand your desire for answers. I wouldn’t want to mislead you, because these are all pertinent facts and once they are all laid out the diocesan tribunal will tell you what the path will be.


Im not looking for an exact answer per se, was just more curious and wanted to be educated going into the process which opened up all these questions!

We are supposed to go meet with a priest I think tomorrow.


This is not the first time such a “complicated” situation has come to the tribunal.

While many people refer you to a priest, not all priests are experts in the tribunal process.

Google will help you find your Diocese website and the way to contact the tribunal. An administrative person or an Advocate will help you.

What you can do to begin is to locate all marriage licenses and divorce decrees involved for you, your fiancee and your ex (if you cannot find your ex’s first marriage license and divorce decree, the tribunal will help you.)

The other important piece of documentation will come from the parish where your fiancee was baptized. He should contact them and ask for an “official copy of his sacramental record with notations”. This will be the foundation to prove he married without the proper permissions.

About your ex-husband’s prior marriages, it may be your tribunal will be able to deterine that you have a ligamen case (here is one Diocese’s example of such)

It all rests with your Tribunal. They will be closed today for the Holy Day of Obligation if you are in the US, but, try them tomorrow!


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