Is a marriage valid if?

Needing some advice and really don’t know where to turn.

In high school, I left the church. I met my husband when I was 23 and we went from dating, to living together to eloping within a year 1/2. He’s not Catholic, his family is Muslim. He’s not of any religious affiliation.

Shortly after marrying, he become quite verbally and emotionally abusive. Throw in a gamblin problem where he’s drained our bank accounts several times. While he’s never hit me, he’s pushed me and thrown things at me twice, once in front of our children.

I’ve tried everything to help our marriage, including marriage counseling and personal counseling. He’s gone to emotional intelligence camps and is currently seeing a therapist. The psychologist has come to one diagnosis, severe OCD and that he doesn’t seem to be able to have empathy for people.

I’m exhausted and feel like I have tried my hardest, given my all and exhausted all resources. I don’t know what to do anymore. I think divorcing might be best for my kids and for my sanity.

Is an elopement of two non Catholic people, considered a valid marriage?

Were you a baptized Catholic at the time of the marriage? Was the marriage in a Catholic form?

If you were ever baptized into or received into the Catholic Church before you eloped, even if you stopped practicing or believing, you were bound by the rules around marriage set in canon law, which means marrying in the Church and marrying a Catholic (though both of these can be dispensed).

You would need to discuss this with a priest for better direction, though. The marriage is presumed valid until demonstrated to be otherwise. It might be easy to demonstrate in this case, but it still needs some type of review.

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Did you seek the Church’s permission to marry a non-Christian? If the answer is “no”, then, your marriage is likely null.

Call your pastor, get somewhere safe. PRAYERS and know you are a beloved child of God!

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A marriage between someone who was baptized Catholic, or was received into the Church after baptism, and someone who is not a Catholic, is generally speaking prohibited. A marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person is invalid due to the diriment impediment of disparity of cult; a marriage between a Catholic and baptized non-Catholic would require permission from the local ordinary. I’m assuming your husband was unbaptized at the time of the marriage, since his family is Muslim and he has no religious affiliation; in this case, then, if the diriment impediment was not dispensed, the marriage would be invalid.

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There is also the option of Petrine/Pauline privilege, if he is not baptized as a Christian. It is in certain circumstances possible for a natural marriage (one in which one or both parties are unbaptized) to be dissolved.

Generally speaking, marriage possesses the favor of the law, meaning that validity must be upheld until the contrary is proved, and the burden of proof is on those who are alleging invalidity (c. 1060). However, there may be an exception to this rule in the OP’s case. She said that she “left the Church” in high school, and married a non-Catholic afterward. Unless the marriage took place before Omnium in Mentem was issued, and the OP had defected from the faith “by a formal act”, as a Catholic she would have been obliged to follow canonical form (c. 1117). A marriage which involves at least one Catholic party, but which did not take place according to canonical form (without dispensation) does not have even the semblance of validity, and therefore the presumption of validity does not apply.

This is the same reason why a woman who attempted to be ordained would not need a declaration of nullity for her “ordination”, or why a same-sex couple would not need a declaration of nullity for their “marriage”. In such cases, because there is no semblance of validity, the presumption of validity does not exist. If the OP’s case is determined to be a “lack of form” case, then it would not be difficult for a tribunal to declare her free to marry, because a declaration of nullity would not even be necessary. It would also seem to me that if the case is not one regarding “lack of form”, there are other grounds for nullity, such as the possibility of there being the (not dispensed) diriment impediment of disparity of cult.

So to sum it up, while I do not know all the details of the case and my opinion has no authority whatsoever, it would appear that the validity of the OP’s marriage is certainly questionable. She would need to obtain a civil divorce first, and then have her case investigated by a tribunal to determine whether the marriage was valid or invalid.


The Pauline Privilege, by which a natural marriage can be dissolved without needing papal involvement, would not apply in the case of a baptized, fallen-away Catholic who returned to the faith. It is true that the Roman Pontiff can dissolve any marriage which is not ratum st consummatum for any just cause, but this presupposes that a valid marriage exists, whether it be merely natural or rantum tantum. However, in the OP’s case, the very validity of her marriage is dubious, and so the possibility of a dissolution would certainly not be the first thing which should be considered.

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I’ll remember you in my prayers.

I was baptized but not yet confirmed. Marriage was not in Catholic form. A chapel in Las Vegas

I was a Catholic, married a non Catholic in a registry office wedding. I was able to get my marriage annulled due to lack of Canonical form (a non Catholic marriage without the blessing of a priest or permission of the Church). Your situation sounds similar. I had my annulment done by an Archbishop who just needed to see my Baptism Certificate, marriage certificate and divorce decree (because a civil marriage is valid legally and needs to be dissolved before annulment). He then wrote me a Decree of Nullity due to lack of canonical form.

If your pastor doesn’t understand this, take the matter to your Bishop or Archbishop. My process took less than two weeks once he had all the paperwork. If you aren’t divorced yet, get that done first.

From what you’ve said this is a straightforward “lack of form case” - you weren’t married in a Catholic ceremony and didn’t get dispensation (which almost never happens anyway). There’s also presumably the lack of dispensation when it comes to marrying a non-baptised person.

Anyway, your first step is to ask your priest to put you in touch with the diocesan marriage tribunal office and they’ll take it from there. It’s usually fairly quick to sort an declaration in these cases that the marriage was invalid.

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That is true, but remember, as others have posted, you pretty much have to have a civil divorce decree BEFORE you apply to the tribunal.

Not “pretty much”, a civil divorce is required before you can petition.

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As @TheLittleLady stated, a civil divorce is required before petitioning to the tribunal. Lest others (including non-Catholics) who visit the forum develop the mistaken view that this somehow makes a declaration of nullity a “Catholic divorce”, it should be explained that the Church simply wants to make sure that the person, if his marriage is declared invalid by the Church, is also free to marry in the eyes of the state. For example, a marriage which was invalid under canon law due to the diriment impediment of disparity of cult may be completely legal and “valid” under the civil law of the country the person resides in, and so a civil divorce is necessary for the state to consider that person free to marry.

This is a typo; it should say “ratum ET consummatum”.

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