Does the Church recognize civil divorce?

My sister’s husband divorced her over 7 years ago. She allowed him back into the home after 3 months because he couldn’t make it on his own, and they have 2 special needs children (who are now 17 and 20) they did not live as a married couple, he lived downstairs. A few months later, he married another woman, behind my sister’s back. He didn’t live with this woman, but married her for money, as she was a chinese immigrant. 6 months ago, my sister found out that he had married another woman. She kicked him out of the house. Amazingly, now this man has decided he LOVES my sister, and that he was wrong, etc. etc. (he also found out in the meantime that the marriage to the Asian was invalid, because the minister wasn’t licensed in that state) So, basically, my sister is considering taking him back (again) because he has convinced her he has changed. My sister tells me that the church doesn’t recognize their civil divorce, because they never had it annulled. My question is, even though they didn’t get an annulment, what does the church decide in a case like this where the man marries someone else, and then tries to act like that never happened, and that in the eyes of the church, he is still married to my sister? I am very worried for my sister, as this man has been verbally and emotionally abusive to her for their whole married/and unmarried life. She was going to talk to our parish priest and get counseling, but now it looks like she isn’t going to do that. He was supposed to get counseling, also, but as far as I can tell, it looks like he has just talked to a priest once, and he thinks he can “fix himself” without the help of someone else. How do I help my sister? I know this is ultimately her choice. This is going to kill my parents, as they were so happy for her to finally get rid of him. I feel like I can’t even visit with my parents, because they will ask me if I have heard from my sister, and I do not want to lie to them, because I know she is secretly thinking of taking him back… I know this sounds like a soap opera, but it is very real, and is also weighing heavily on my mind. Do I just keep encouraging her to talk to our priest? Where exactly is their state of marriage? I find it ironic that he can NOW act like they are married in the eyes of God, but all the time they were married, he didn’t go to church regularly, and by knowingly marrying someone else, I feel like he didn’t give a damn about my sister or the church, anyway, but now that he has nowhere to live and he is lonely, he is talking a good game and acting like he wants to go back to church, etc. etc. because he is desperate, but my sister thinks he has really changed…I will stop rambling now. If you can give me any information, I would appreciate it!!

The following links should help you better understand the Church’s position on divorce. If you have any further questions, please contact Catholic Answers directly.

Recommended Reading:

*]Is Civil Divorce the same as a Divorce through the church?
*]How is divorce allowed by the Catholic Church?
*]What are the implications of divorce and being a practicing Catholic?

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