Divorce but no annulment


I have a question regarding remarriage to the same woman after she divorces him but wants to return.

The back-story is a couple married in the Church. The woman divorced the man but there was no annulment. If the woman wants to return and the man is in agreement is it necessary that they be re-married civilly before they can live together once again or, since the Church still considers the marriage valid would he not be obliged to do so?

I couldn’t decide where to post this question I hope its the correct forum.



Even if the Church recognizes the marriage (presumably, Confession would be the first step if there were subsequent relationships or marriages), it would be unwise to not be remarried under civil law and have the appropriate legal protections it entails (i.e., credit, property, inheritance, medical decisions, insurance, etc.).


we would just like to know if the church would say that it was necessary to be civilly married


I don’t know. You may want to join the annulment group and ask the question there as there is a canon lawyer who participates, dans0622. They actually have a thread titled “Ask the Canon Lawyer”.


An argument could be made (at least, once upon a time) that it would “cause scandal” if the parties were not civilly married and, therefore, a sin. Depending upon the community in which they live, I’ve not sure the populace would be so easily scandalized these days. :shrug:


I don’t think so, although it would be preferable.


OP, why would they not want to re-marry civilly?

Is it because they have doubts about the marriage and want to preserve their freedom to separate again? That would obviously be problematic.


The couple should seek to either reverse the court decree of divorce, or quietly sign a new marriage license before a judge or justice of the peace.

The church expects its married members to publicly represent themselves as a couple unless there is a grave cause to not do so. This would include fulfilling any just civil requirements regarding marriage.


Could be possibly permissible for various reasons - legal, financial, perhaps inheritance or other.


It would be fraud if a couple returns to married life, but continued to receive benefits they would be due only if single.


What if the couple live in a country where it would be illegal for a Muslim female - for example to convert, or marry a non-Muslim male? It would be best for the Church to allow such a marriage but keep silent about it to authorities. What about in a place where the law says a it is not allowed for a Prime Minister to be Catholic or married to a Catholic - think UK until fairly recently… it would be prudent to keep any marriage like this secret. What about a couple in the United States, for example, who are illegal immigrants - should they be asked to register with the Feds and be risk deportation before the Church will marry them? I don’t think so.


In the eyes of the Church, they were never not married since there was no decree of nullity. They were simply not living together, so if they resume living together, I do not think the Church requires anything.

The issue of divorce and re-marriage is a secular one guided by the laws of the state they live in. I know of a couple who were married in the Church, divorced, he moved out, lived apart for years, she forgave him, he came back, they lived as husband and wife for many years, recently got re-married (due to financial reasons related to joint estate). To the best of my knowledge this was all a civil matter and the Church was not involved.

I may be incorrect, so the bottom line is it is best to seek formal advice from your Priest.


True danger would be just cause to have a secret marriage.

In the case of the Prime Ministry, it would be more important for the public figure to be truthful regarding his faith than to be in office. Resigning to honor his marriage vows would be a powerful sign to the people of England; this is approximately what Tony Blair did (left office, then converted).


The church only permits divorce for grave cause. If this grave cause should cease, or if the divorce were obtained illicitly for less than grave cause, it should be reversed.

The church has mechanisms under canon law that can mark a couple’s sacramental records as “permanently separated” or similar. Such marking could be used to permit certain privileges open only to unmarried Catholics. These markings, if applicable, should be cancelled by contacting the diocese and following any necessary procedures.


True but complex. As with almost every question in this area, speaking to one’s Priest is always best.


While the Church would still consider them married, if they legally divorced then the authorities do not recognise them as married and as such they have no marital rights under the law.


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