Lack of of form/dating


Hi! I'm newly baptized and confirmed this Easter. Before I converted, I was civilly married to, then civilly divorced from, a non-practicing Catholic. We were married by an ordained minister but not from my faith (beach wedding). During my Inquiry I was told I needed a Lack of Form determination to be free to marry in the church, but since I'm single, not dating, etc. I was able to be baptized and confirmed.

Now, my dilemma: I divorced my ex because he was using birth control and told me he never wanted to have kids, now, he's been dating a woman who he has discussed (briefly, they aren't getting married) having kids with... Aside from the emotional turmoil, I feel a moral/ethical bind. Since I haven't begun the Lack of Form paperwork, but am a practicing Catholic, am I obligated to attempt to reconcile the marriage and seek convalidation as he is now open to children? I do love him, but he has doubts about ever practicing the faith as I do, and our interactions are very wounded from the marriage. And there is this other woman. I've asked him to not have contact with her while I clarify our status, and to let her know the moral and ecclesiastical reasons for the no contact, etc. He's agreed. Since Lack of Form means there never was a marriage am I obligated to not date until this is resolved? If I start dating my civil ex- but possibly sacramentally still husband are we able to have marital relations or is it fornication? I am waiting to meet with a priest but am traveling for the summer so not at my home parish.

Thanks, I look forward to your responses. The possibility of moral clarity is why I converted.



Welcome to CAF! :wave:

Yes, your best bet is certainly to speak with a priest.

If you married a Catholic on a beach and had no dispensation to do so, that would not be a valid marriage. You still need to fill out the paperwork for a “Lack of Form” just to verify that such is the case.

In any case, I wouldn’t advocate doing anything drastic before speaking with your priest.


Thanks for the answer. I missed the priest's return call this morning, so now I'm waiting again.



You should not date. You should submit your paperwork. It takes a few weeks, typically, for lack of form.

You need some counseling. You are obvioulsy conflicted and still have feelings for this man. He is dating someone else, and plans to marry her.

Regarding having sexual relations with him-- (a) that will solve NOTHING and will create a lot of potential heartache for you and (b) he is not “possibly” your husband. With lack of form he is not your husband. So, yes, sexual intimacy would be a grave sin.


I’m not planning, or in danger of committing a grave sin, I like to know what the law is. I’m sure it sounds salacious to ask about sex on a catholic forum, but I ask to resolve the logic knots reading all these annulment websites have tied in my head. Your comment regarding his plans was pretty hurtful and aggressive and not necessary to illustrate your point.


In order for the marriage to be valid, he would have needed a dispensation to marry outside the Church. He is with someone else now, I don’t see a reason to try to convalidate your invalid marriage.

And he still doesn’t want kids with you, so the children thing is not an issue. He was supposed to be open to having children with you at the time of the wedding ceremony.

And you still need to get the annulment (lack of form) approved before you can begin dating.


Thanks for the answer. I’m trying to get clarity on if I have an obligation to resolve the many complex issues that would prevent us from reconciling and if I do, what the parameters would be, and if I don’t what my freedoms are. I’ve dated since the divorce but before I converted and am trying to get a handle on these fine points.


1ke may have come across a bit brusquely, but she is correct on the facts of the matter. You have no moral obligation to try to patch things up as you were never validly married to him.

Lack of form is different from other annulment cases. If you had been married in a Catholic Church or had received the necessary dispensation from the bishop to marry in another venue (but still with a priest present), then the Church would presume validity of the marriage until proven otherwise via the annulment process (which can take anywhere from 1-2 years on average).

For a Lack of Form case, it just requires some simple paper work and a few weeks processing time. This is because these cases are much more clear cut. Canon Law stipulates that baptized Catholis are obligated to follow the proper form of marriage in order to validly enter into marriage. If you didn’t follow the form, the marriage isn’t valid. And if the marriage isn’t valid, then there is no obligation to reconcile.

That said, I would still say it would be wise to wait until the paperwork goes through before you start dating. It doesn’t take that long, so it seems unlikely to be an issue. As far as whether or not your previous dating since the divorce was immoral, I’d leave that determination to the priest. Since you would need to complete the Lack of Form paperwork before you would be allowed to marry in the Catholic Church, it seems like it would be good practice to have that taken care of before you begin a relationship that could lead to marriage (i.e. dating).


Would the Tribunal even look at this outside of a prenuptial investigation?

There is no presumption of validity here. If OP lives outside of North America, and even in some dioceses within NA, this wouldn’t even be sent to the Tribunal if she was preparing for marriage. They’d look at her baptismal record and, with no notation of marriage recorded, consider her free to marry.


I know you’re looking at all the aspects of your situation from a law of the church perspective, and I hope you find the answers that will bring you peace. Have you committed this situation, first and foremost, to prayer? God, above all else, wants to have a personal relationship with you, and wants you to bring your concerns to Him. There’s just no substitute for reading His Word daily and talking to Him directly. :thumbsup: Hugs and blessings to you!


I think this may be correct, hence the suggestions to talk to a priest is good. It is likely only way to clarify.



Yes, they…well, I was going to say “would” but I’ll just say “could” or “should.” Everyone, at any time, has the right to have their status of person determined by the Church.

I’d also point out that it is not the OP who married outside the Church. She was not Catholic at the time. It was the husband who was Catholic. So, I’d suggest having this all clarified while the two Parties are still in contact with each other.



OK I know lack of form is very straightforward. But, doesn’t the Church still presume validity until someone says hey I think my marriage lacked form? Surely, until any marriage is questioned and the Church decides, by whatever procedure, that the marriage didn’t happen because of whatever reason we should all presume it’s valid? If you know Mr and Mrs Bloggs next door how can you know their marriage isn’t valid until the Church says it isn’t even if the Chirch says that through a simple paperwork procedure?


There is no presumption of validity when a Catholic marries outside the Church. A dubium in the middle of the last century made it clear that for a Catholic, a putative marriage only exists if it was celebrated in the Church or dispensed from form.


The OP is not the one with lack of form. It is her ex. She will have to prove he is a Catholic, and prove he did not marry validly, to be free to marry under that provision in the law.

So, yes, she needs to petition to have it examined. If she cannot prove these facts, she would have to go through a full tribunal case.


If Mr & Mrs Bloggs lived next door to me and I know Mrs Bloggs is Catholic but she was married on a beach in the Maldives how do I know she wasn’t granted a dispensation. I’m not saying the marriage conducted without form and dispensation isn’t valid. I’m asking shouldn’t I prseume its validity until the Church says it’s not valid.


You don’t and it is not your business so it doesn’t matter.

The Church, OTOH, does know (through its records) and it is the Church’s business. The Church does not presume this marriage to be valid and does NOT require any tribunal case when one has a lack of form.

One presumes a marriage is valid until one is certain of its invalidity. If Mrs. Bloggs tells you that she had no dispensation and in fact married outside the Church, then there is no question it is invalid.


It’s everyone’s business. Marriage is not private it’s a public institution and necessary for society.

I know that a lack of form case requires the Church. I suppose it’s up to each diocese which department actually handles this administrative procedure.

I believe that’s the very point I was making.


I just wanted to update all of you who offered insight here. I appreciate the diversity and depth of opinions.

After hours of prayer and contemplation and a lot of very frank discussions, my ex- actually refused to let me sign the annulment paperwork until he’s had time to examine his conscience. There are challenges to any full reconciliation but I’m hopeful that we will at least grow into a better friendship than we already have, and he’s been going to mass with me every few weeks… which is a pretty big deal since he’s been lapsed since we were in our 20s. I spoke with a priest about what I should focus on and he said that if it was in my heart to try to reconcile than the ball was in my court. I did insist that my ex- never have anything to do with the woman he’d dated after our divorce, get rid of momentos, pictures, contact information, etc. and he did that a few months ago. I did the same with the man I dated last year.

All I know at this point is that this process requires 100% humility and it challenges your faith, in good ways.

I hope some of you pray for us, for the restoration of our marriage, and for continued insight and wisdom for each of us about the issues that led to this situation in the first place.

Yours in peace, :signofcross:


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