Dating a divorced person

would a divorced person need to apply for a decree of nullity before anyone can date them?

I’m asking because I have a girl from when I was in elementary school message me on facebook the other day saying she just starting to date a great catholic guy and is thinking of becoming cahotlic herself. she asked me if I could help her out if she ever has questions, so I’m thinking something like this might eventually come up.

so just for clarification, a person should get their marriage sorted out prior to any kind of dating relationship, right?

does a catholic need to ask the other person to do this before pursuing anything further? because the other person might not be catholic so might not even get what this is all about

Ideally, dating relationships are for the purpose of one day discerning marriage, so one should not pursue such a relationship with someone not free to marry. A divorcee without an annulment is not free to marry, as taught by the Church.


You are presenting a scenario that, from one perspective, is a bit of a case of the old question: “Which came first…the chicken or the egg?”

Prudence demands that a Catholic not begin dating until he knows if his previous marriage is in fact valid or null. From what you say, there seems to be no issue of the Catholic being married before…or at least according to the knowledge at hand.

Normally, a tribunal only examines a marriage case of a Catholic or of a non-Catholic who is seeking to marry a Catholic but who has a prior bond, which would have to be resolved in her favour in order to marry.

Since she has not even made a decision about becoming Catholic and neither have made a decision about the nature of the future of their relationship, I don’t think it realistic that she will start an involved process to assess her prior marriage when it is yet to be seen if she will either become Catholic and/or marry one.

If the topic of her previous marriage comes up, I would advise that you suggest that she discuss it with a priest as the details of it are rather important as to how the matter would even be handled.

From a practical point of view, other than simple company keeping, there is a lot of heartache and compromise with divorced people, even if there is a Declaration of Nullity.

Keep your own happiness in mind - date only single people.

My understanding: a divorced person whose former spouse is still living would need to obtain a decree of nullity before dating, not merely apply for one.

My opinion: what jmcrae said.

Except that the divorced person in this case is not Catholic and has “just started dating” the Catholic. In my part of the world it would be quite extraordinary for a non-Catholic, not yet in the process of becoming Catholic or even decided to pursue Catholicism, to petition a Catholic marriage tribunal to adjudicate the status of her marriage on the margin that she might, someday, marry a Catholic.

Sadly this is how many Catholics really feel about annulled people, even in the Year of Mercy. :frowning:

I must be missing something, Father, because after several rereads of the OP’s post I could not get a clear indication of which person is divorced, if either (although I guess one of them must be or the OP would not have asked the question). What I understood is that a non-Catholic girl has just started dating a Catholic guy. I did not see where it was clearly stated which person is divorced. Just because the guy is Catholic doesn’t mean he isn’t the divorced party; sadly, I know many Catholics who are ignorant of (or simply ignore) the Church’s position on those who are divorced.

In any event, I should have clarified my response with the phrase “in general.” If I’ve confused or mislead anyone, I apologize!

Sounds to me like the non catholic friend is divorced. Angel, please clarify.

The Catholic (hopefully) knows better. He needs to say “Thanks for keeping me company, and thanks for the laughs” and he needs to move on. He need not try to explain why.

It is reality. You are in competition with your spouse’s kids, inlaws, and friends from the previous marriage, even if a Declaration of Nullity was obtained.

It has nothing to do with mercy. You can forgive anything; you are not required to live with everything.

Well…it is a bit of deductive reasoning as the matter is not terribly clear to me either. The original poster says that the girl, who is not Catholic, she has known since elementary school. This woman has told the original poster that she has “just started dating a great Catholic guy.” Since the original poster indicates someone in this equation is divorced, I presumed it was the person she has known for years, since she gave no indication that she even knows who the unnamed man is. That, of course, could be a false assumption. However, the original poster does ask the question, “does a catholic need to ask the other person to do this?”, which would support the premise that is the non-Catholic who is divorced.

IF in fact it is the Catholic man who is divorced, then yes he should obtain an annulment before attempting to date anyone, Catholic or not, since otherwise he won’t know if he would be free to marry. If it is the non-Catholic on the other hand and she has at best some vague but as yet unformed or indeterminate interest in possibly becoming Catholic, then we are in the situation I described above.

I can’t imagine someone relating the two scenarios as if they were yoked…the two people seeing each other and the question about a marriage status needing to be sorted out before dating…if, in fact, the two scenarios do not somehow go together.

Does the fact not remain that she is still bound to the first marriage until either the death of the spouse or until it has been officially proven that no marriage existed?

The fact that she doesn’t know that doesn’t change reality - does it?

I am curious. What mechanism do you propose for how to realise “or until it has been officially proven that no marriage existed”? She is non-Catholic.

Not every annulled Catholic has kids, living in-laws, or keeps in touch with friends from their previous marriage. But if you write someone off based solely on their annulment status, you’d never know that.

The reason I ask this question in response to yours is that marriage tribunals deal with these situations, essentially:

*]It examines a marriage between a Catholic and a Catholic. One or both seek a declaration of nullity in order for one or both to contract a new marriage or to enter the priesthood or Consecrated Life.

*]It examines a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic because the Catholic party wishes to contract a new marriage or to enter the priesthood or Consecrated Life OR the non-Catholic party wishes to contract a new marriage with a Catholic. I have never encountered a situation in which a non-Catholic sought a declaration of nullity regarding the prior bond from a tribunal in order to contract a marriage with a non-Catholic, which would of course be in a non-Catholic venue.

*]It examines a marriage between two non-Catholics when one of those non-Catholics wishes to marry a Catholic

*]Defect of form cases are handled through an administrative process.

It would radically alter the operation of a diocesan marriage tribunal if it routinely were analysing non-Catholic marriages at the request of non-Catholics who postulated that, potentially, they might meet a Catholic they wished to date and, should that proceed, eventually marry…all the more so in countries like the United States and Canada where Catholics are a minority of the population. Tribunals already tend to be overworked and understaffed.

Given that there is none, she is off limits.

Logistics aside, her putative marriage enjoys the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, she is to be considered “married”.

I am not “writing off” anyone. Within recent living memory it was completely commonplace for divorced persons to enjoy the freedom of independent living without ever remarrying, or thinking something was missing because they couldn’t get married twice in one lifetime. This includes non-Catholics who also were taking seriously their vow of “until death us do part.” Living separately, or holding a Decree Nisai didn’t make them feel entitled to be 22 all over again.

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