Lack of Form?

I’ve tried to look up the answer to this, and I know ultimately I need to speak with a priest, but thought perhaps someone could be of assistance. I guess you could say that I’m in the inquiry stage of conversion, where I’m not quite yet sure if I want to convert- but am thinking of what would need to be done if I ultimately decide that I do want to convert. Anyway, my husband and I are both previously married, so I understand we would each need to seek an annulment to convert.

I was baptized Catholic as a baby (my dad and his side are Catholic) but never went any farther in the sacraments and was raised Protestant. I got married when I was 19 (my ex was also 19), and he was Catholic (I don’t think he made his confirmation, but am positive that he received his First Communion in the Church). We divorced after one year of marriage. Is the fact that we were both baptized Catholics who were married outside of the Church grounds for an annulment? Is that what is referred to as Lack of Form? Even beyond that, he wasn’t open to children. Anytime we talked about it, he would say something like “Maybe someday…” but didn’t really ever seem to want them. Is any of this (our age when we were married, his stance on kids, our marriage outside of the Church) grounds for an annulment, or am I wishful thinking?

My current husband was in a similar position to me (except neither he or his wife were baptized Catholic… I don’t even know if his wife was ever baptized, actually). Married young (each were 19) and his wife didn’t want children AT ALL.

Further, if after more studying I decide to convert- or revert, as it were- what will the Church expect of my current husband and myself? We have a one year old, so separating doesn’t seem like a practical solution, but of course… I have no idea. That’s why I’m asking. Thanks!

Talk to a priest - he can tell you best.

If you and your ex were baptized Catholic and married outside the Church without the proper dispensations, then your marriage wouldn’t have been considered valid and your situation is a simple lack of form case. It’s simply a matter of presenting both yours and your ex’s recent Baptismal certificate showing no marriage notation, a marriage certificate showing who married you and where and your divorce papers. It’s an administrative case only, not really an annulment. Your marriage is already considered invalid, it doesn’t have to be proven to be.

Your present ‘husband’ is not so lucky and will have to petition for a decree of nullity.

Thank you for your answers. It appears that if and when it comes to that, I need to speak with a priest.

Your marriage is invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church, due to the lack of required form.

You husbands marriage is considered valid (as non Catholics they were not required their marriage to be witnessed by the Church), probably it would be annulled easily. The process in 1-2 years the cost is bearable, so start it as soon as possible

Your priest is the judge what to do before your present marriage can be sanctioned by the Church. I would say (I am not priest) that God does not want impossible things, but you cannot receive sacraments before your proper marriage in the Church.

Not really accurate. Because marriage enjoys the favor of the law, a marriage is presumed valid until the documents are presented. Then it is a quick review and ruling as lack of form.

No, with lack of form there is no presumption of validity.

There is no ‘annulment’ here. That is why, even though most dioceses will send a ‘lack of form’ case to the Tribunal, AFAIK, there is no canonical requirement to do so. In our diocese, the bishop has told the priests simply to document these cases and not bother with the Tribunal. That may change when we get a new bishop but in the meantime the priest just documents everything in the prenuptial investigation.

Even in cases where it does go to the Tribunal, there is no ‘decree of nullity’ issued.

Phemie is correct in what she has told you.

A lack of form case is not judicial in nature, it is administrative. In judicial cases the legal presumption is that the marriage in question is valid. There is no such presumption in law to overturn. Documents can prove that the parties legally bound to follow the canonical form of marriage did not marry in accord with canonical form.

Because they omitted canonical form the marriage was not valid in the Church.

A lack of canonical form case is not usually handled by a tribunal. Different dioceses can handle them in the manner they choose. They may be even be dealt with at parochial level.

The documents required are, as Phemie has advised you, a baptismal certificate to prove the party was bound to be married by canonical form and that there was no canonical wedding and two civil documents: a certificate of marriage to prove a civil, i.e. non-canonical, marriage took place and the decree of dissolution (commonly called divorce). In my country it would be the second of two decrees of dissolution, i.e. the decree absolute. I don’t know what documents prove civil dissolution in Canada or USA.

The case is purely administrative, straightforward and doesn’t take long to achieve. No decree of nullity is issued because it’s not a judicial matter.

you already know you have to ask a priest and be prepared to give him all the details of the marital history of both spouses, both exes, and baptismal status of all involved.

If facts are as stated–which almost never happens here, as in almost never happens in our initial interview with prospective converts since there is always more to the story–your marriage is invalid due to lack of form. There is a formal process to establish that, the hardest part being to gather the needed paperwork, but it is not a full blown annulment. Without knowing the baptismal status and marital history of your husband and his ex there is no way to comment, it would be just a guess. The sooner you ask the questions the sooner you will get answers and be on your way.

Welcome home.

More information is needed, but if neither of you made a formally accepted renunciation of the Catholic Church in writing to a minister, and were married after 1983 canon law changes, then you were both bound to obey the matrimonial laws of the Catholic Church. So, that does not require a formal annulment but documentation, rather you must present a Catholic birth certificate and the marriage licenses or certificates. From that, it will be clear that you were not married, either time.

If your current husband can proove that his prior wife did not give proper consent then it could be annulled. This is called a Ligamen case.

My best estimate is that you are currently not in a Catholic Marriage and your current husband is presumed to be in a valid (prior) marriage.

How can this be a ligamen case? It is my understanding that this type of case only exists if one of the spouses is presumed dead.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply to me. I appreciate it!

My current husband was baptized in the Lutheran church as a baby. I’m not positive of the baptismal status of his ex-wife, but he thinks she was baptized. Need to find that out.

I’m sure there’s a lot of details that would be pertinent that I’m leaving out, as a previous poster mentioned. :slight_smile: One thing I did think of, besides their young age when they got married, it was discovered after their marriage that she was bipolar. I’m not sure if that makes a difference either way. If I remember the story correctly, they got married pretty quickly after they met because she didn’t have a great home life. I know they didn’t know each other very long before they got married… I’m sure there’s a lot of gaps that I’m missing. Fortunately, my husband (also Protestant) is very supportive of me in this journey and if it came to the place where I did decide to convert, he would be totally cooperative in the annulment process (and then ideally convalidation if he receives a decree of nullity) regardless of whether he decided to convert himself. So, I am thankful for that.

Busy week ahead of me, so hopefully after the next few days I’ll have time to call and schedule an appointment with a priest.

Again, thank you all.

The difficult thing that occurs in these situations, it that the Catholic must promise to raise the children in the Catholic faith, and inform the non-Catholic spouse of that.

Ligamen (Latin, meaning: bond) is an existing marriage tie, which constitutes an impediment to the contracting of a second marriage.

Read this:
arlingtondiocese.org/tribunal/cases/ligamen.pdf

I am perfectly fine with that, as is he.

Also, I’m not sure how ligamen would apply to us, since my husband’s ex-wife is remarried now, but was never married before she married my now husband.

The prior marriage of your current husband has to be annulled, even though it was not Catholic. You said that your current husband and his wife were not baptized Catholic, so that means they were not bound to the Catholic form of marriage, and so their marriage is presumed valid until annulled.

Oh right, absolutely.

I thought you meant that his previous marriage could be annulled via ligamen- which isn’t possible since it was both his and his wife’s first. He would have to petition the Tribunal for a decree of nullity.

Oh. Yes, the impediment of ligamen is due the bond of a prior marriage, but the ligamen process is not the same as the annulment process. Now I understand why Matthew questioned my statement.

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