Fake marriage or not?

This is kind of a weird situation, and I’m hoping someone can help me as to the status of something like this because I’m way out of my depth in the civil area and ecclesiastical area of law. My friend is only a partially practicing Catholic, so I know he doesn’t see any need to talk to a priest about this. Here’s all the info I have:

My Catholic friend knew a woman that got pregnant around 1997-98, and her boyfriend ran off and left her during the pregnancy. This woman didn’t have any money or insurance or anything. My friend was in the military at the time. Since he was good friends with this woman, he wanted to make sure was able to have her baby in a hospital with all the care she would need.
He and this woman (who I believe is also Catholic) went to a JOP and had a marriage ceremony. He told me all that was required to get her what she needed for the baby was to show the marriage license to whoever needed to see it. Neither party intended for it to be a real marriage. My friend said that he never filed the marriage license, because after 90 days unfiled it became void and since they never intended to be married in the first place that was the intended outcome. She has since gotten married to someone else.

SO, what I need to know is if anyone can tell me if what they did counted as an actual marriage that would need a declaration of nullity by the Church? He is interested in this lady at the moment who is Catholic and if they shouldn’t be seeing each other I would like to be able to let them know so they aren’t committing adultery.

I don’t know why you need to know anything about it, unless your friend has specifically asked for your input, but supposing the story is true, and you have the whole story (highly unlikely in most marriage cases) if your friend is Catholic he was never validly married. I have no idea what the civil law is in his area, he should see a lawyer especially if laws at the time make him automatically the father of child and liable for its support. They are not committing adultery or any other sin unless they begin to have sex. If they now wish to marry legally, and in the Church they need to see a priest and their county clerk, in that order. If it were my son I would advise going the lawyer route as well.

I think he might have to just obtain something from the Church; I know of a case similar to this that was for immigration issues and that person still had to get an official annulment. But it was very simple in a case such as this, more a formality so it could be documented and not complex like an annulment where the couple had been living as husband and wife, etc. So it shouldn’t be difficult or costly.

A pledge of marriage typically deems one no longer free to marry in a Catholic church, unless evidence of the person being never married is presented to the local Bishop.

First of all, given the circumstances of his marriage, he and his wife probably never consummated their union. If my assumption is right, he could easily get an annulment even if he had been married in a Catholic ceremony. Secondly, a civil marriage is not recognized by the Church and would involve mortal sin if it were consummated. However, such a marriage can be convalidated (made sacramental). So, I am sure that he has nothing to worry about. If a civil marriage is not even recognized by the state as still existing, then most likely nothing needs to done about it.

There would need to be an annulment but it is easy to get.

I wonder in the cases of insurance and immigration. Are these ideas of marrying someone temporarily solely to help them considered sinful? I wonder how God would view this marriage. I know someone in a similar situation and idk if I am making excuses for that person because of the difficulty of the situation, whether it is ok because of the unjustness of the world.

I do know if what you state is in fact so, what he did do was misuse and abuse his military benefits and should be court martialed. If he wished to be charitable he could have paid for the birth himself, not steal it from the tax payers.

Other than that, he probably would not have to go through full annulment proceedings.

He needs to approach his priest and lay out all the facts. The priest will guide him. Dioceses handle lack of form cases differently, but for most it is simply a paperwork process, forms he will fill out. He should do this sooner rather than later.

Actually, this isn’t accurate. A valid, unconsummated marriage can be dissolved by the Pope. Dissolution of a valid bond is not the same as a decree of nullity:

Can. 1142 For a just cause, the Roman Pontiff can dissolve a non-consummated marriage between baptized persons or between a baptized party and a non-baptized party at the request of both parties or of one of them, even if the other party is unwilling.

He needs to present all the facts to his priest and ask for guidance.

I tell the RCIA classes that if you ever went through anything approximating a marriage ceremony, i.e. you stood before someone in an official position, and said something approximating “I Do”, it must be submitted to the Tribunal for a ruling. As others said, many cases are simple paper work, but there must be a ruling.

Forgive me if I have displayed any ignorance upon this matter. I seem to have been oversimplifying the issue. However, if an annulment or dissolution is necessary in these circumstances, it should not be too difficult to obtain.

A catholic can not validly get sacramentally married by a Justice of the peace. And filed or not, there is a record, since the JotP should be keeping a record himself, and may be submitting that record to the vital records office.

They should obtain a formal declaration of nullity, however, for good measure, and to establish for future reference that indeed, no sacramental nor natural marriage had occurred. That declaration should be declaring it null for lack of form.

I know one gal who won her alimony when she had a copy of the signed license, despite her husband having failed to file the paperwork. The Vital Records office had the Marriage Commissioner’s notice of service, and with her copy, that was adequate to prove he’d deceived her and the marriage commissioner.

Thank you all very much for your answers. Hopefully I can convince him he needs to talk to his priest now. Please pray for him.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.