Divorce, how to handle within the church

I made a mistake when I was 21. I got married outside of the Catholic Church without the churches knowledge. Unfortunately got divorced last year to no fault of my own. My exwife had refused to go through the Pre-cana classes, and at 21 I just went along with it.

I will not do that again, but am curious if I need to do anything to be able to marry in the church if that should happen.

You need to get an annulment. You are still married in the eyes of God and His Church. Until you receive an annulment, you should not date or be romantically involved with anyone as it would be technically adultery. I will be sure to say a prayer for you!

You may find the following helpful:

you need to contact a priest and have your marriage investigated to discern if it can be annulled.

But I was never married in the church, I was married in a Protestant church. That is where my question comes from, how can I anull something that never happened according to the church?

missing info, so you should see your priest about this
in general, if you are Catholic, and married outside the Church (disregarding Catholic canon law on marriage) your marriage was invalid, and if there is no possibility of reconciliation, usually proven by civil divorce, you need to ask for declaration of “invalidity due to lack of form.” This is a rather simple paperwork process but you must do this before you are free to marry or even date again. The declaration will almost certainly contain a recommendation that you receive additional pre-marriage counselling to help you address reasons why the first union might have failed and make sure those issues do not carry over to the new relationship. And no this is not a full blown annulment investigation it is the lack of form process, but there is still a formal process that must be followed. See your priest and get answers that apply to your specific situation.

annulment does not cancel anything, it is a legal declaration of a fact, that no valid marriage existed. You do not “annul” anything, nor does the Church. The result is called a “decree of nullity” which is a statement of fact, not a procedure that cancels or annuls something that was valid.

The Catholic Church recognizes ALL marriages, regardless of whether or not they were performed in the Catholic Church. So you are still married in the eyes of the Catholic Church even though you were not married in the Catholic Church. And yes, you still need to get it annulled.

In my case my exwife refused to go to church, did not want children, and she then developed an interest in someone else. I did all to make the marriage work, how could they require additional counseling for me in that case? I am not the one who strayed away.

that is irrelevant for this discussion
they could strongly suggest (not require, where did I say that) additional counselling for you to help you see how you formed the relationship in the first place, and to make sure you avoid such an issue in your next one. There is no assignment of blame, no finger pointing, no adversarial process involved here. The Church, via your pastor, has the obligation morally and in canon law to make sure you enter into a valid marriage next time out, and the must carry out this obligation with all the means available. Counselling and pre-marital classes are part of this process.

Will I have a problem getting this process done? This scares me as I’m 30 years old and don’t want to not be able to get married.

Marriage goes beyond the boundaries of the Church. In fact, marriage existed from the dawn of time, when Adam and Eve were brought together by God.

The Church has to declare that your marriage was null and never existed for you to be free to marry in the Church.

This is true when 2 non-Catholics marry.
However, Catholics are bound to marry according to Catholic cannon. So if as a Catholic, he married outside of the Catholic Church without receiving dispensation to do so, his marriage is not considered valid by the church. He needs to speak with his priest about receiving a lack of form decree of nullity.

Either way, the OP needs to speak with his local priest about his options before begining any new romantic relationships…

the Church recognizes marriages that a civil marriage existed, but if a Catholic did not receive a disparity of cult dispensation to get married in a Protestant ceremony, then the Catholic church does not recognize the marriage as valid, A drcree of nulity would be on the grounds of defect of form and would be easily attained.

Deep breaths! Based off the information you have given, I don’t think it will be that difficult for you to get the process done. It might take as little as a few weeks, but until you get the marriage annulled you are still married.

Whatever you did before you started learning about this you did in ignorance. So if you are currently involved with someone else, it’s not your fault. You didn’t know. You can’t change the past, you can only change the future. So focus on the here and now.

Speak to a priest as soon as possible about getting the marriage annulled!

Here’s a link for more information:

Best of luck! You are in my prayers!

The above posts on my comment are correct, my apologies for my loose use of terminology. And thanks for correcting me!

Ok, I spoke with my priest, he was luckily available. He says there is nothing that needs to be done, he said the church doesn’t recognize the marriage, as far as the church is concerned it never happened and I was living in sin while civially married.

Call your diocese then or go to another parish. A documentary case does need to be filed.

If you were Catholic at age 21 when you married and your marriage was not witnessed by a Catholic priest or someone appointed by him, then your marriage was invalid.

Still the Church had to declare the nullity. This will be a simple process. Contact your priest, he will take care about the details. You do not need attorney. Expect some time.

I believe it has been said that a process for lack of form is relatively simple. Have you thought to take the advice you have been given and simply ask the priest about your individual situation? If he told you nothing has to be done he is wrong. There is a process. ask him to refer you to someone at the tribunal. You must have an affidavit of free status to marry again, and in your case that includes the declaration of invalidity due to lack of form. He may have told you that you don’t need to take any steps now, which is true. It only becomes an issue if you wish to remarry.

It’s a bizarre kind of grey area - on the one hand, your marriage was obviously not valid, but for the purposes of the Tribunal, every marriage must be presumed valid (even if it obviously isn’t) - they then conduct an investigation, and make their declaration.

In your case, assuming it is as you say, and your wife did not (without your knowing it) receive permission from the Bishop to marry you outside the Catholic Church, it should be a very simple case - I have seen one such case completed in under a week, including the time to mail the paperwork in, and receive it back by mail - it must have been in the Tribunal office for no more than a day - anyway, have no fear, just do it, and get it over with.

Most people report that the process is difficult, but worth it, because they come to know themselves very, very well, which makes it far more likely that they will make better decisions for themselves, going forward - not only in their choice of partner, but also in other areas of their lives.

Not so. His marriage is not presumed valid. Some dioceses don’t even require that it be submitted to the Tribunal, the paperwork is done at the parish level during the prenuptial investigation.

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