Marital status?


Not sure if this is the correct forum.

Cradle Catholic woman becomes pregnant in college with nominally Jewish father, both sets of parents decide the couple get will married and they are OK with this. Catholic priest refuses to marry them because he does not feel comfortable with the marriage, so they are married by a JOP. Couple divorces 7 years later.

Woman becomes pregnant again, another JOP wedding ensues, this time with an agnostic/atheist father.

Woman continues to be Catholic throughout and is currently married to the second man.

What is the woman’s current marital status within the Church? If she divorces the current husband, can she be married in the Church? Are either of her marriages considered valid? Would she need one, two, or no annulments if she ever wanted to re-marry?


A Catholic marrying outside the Church without a dispensation does so invalidly.

Marriage 1- invalid due to lack of form, a documentary case with the tribunal (not a full nullity investigation)

Marriage 2 - invalid due to lack of form.

Since the person is currently in Marriage 2, they should take steps to regularize the situation so they can return to the sacraments. There are two options:
*]If the marriage is otherwise healthy and committed, then the Catholic should seek convalidation or radical sanation to make the marriage valid.

*]If there marriage is not healthy or otherwise able to be convalidated, the wife should separate/divorce and complete the documentary case so that she is free to marry in the future.

In either case, the first step is for the woman to make an appointment with her pastor.


Both are invalid marriages. She can submit forms to get married to someone else in the Church. She could also talk to a priest about validating her current marriage.


Most likely the first marriage would have been considered invalid had this gone through the Church. (Tribunal) Re: She was pregnant which than constitutes lack of free will choice.

The second marriage I am not so sure about. But I doubt it. The marriage was still done outside of the Church and without her blessing. The husband is an atheist and if he had no desire to convert I don’t know if the Church would bless the marriage.


So if the second marriage ended in divorce, assuming it’s invalid, all that would be required would be for her to go to confession and then she would be free to marry within the Church?


No, that is not all that is required.

The Church presumes marriages are valid unless proven not to be. Given the facts presented, the woman would be required to submit her claim of nullity to the tribunal for a judgement. Only after a decree of nullity was granted would she be free to marry.


I don’t think this case would be a full process because neither marriage was in the Church.


It matters not. The Church must still rule on the status of the prior marriages (whether in the Church or not), even if this turns out to be a very simple evaluation and ruling.


So then the church does consider her validly married unless proven otherwise?

That is where I am getting hung up. The marriages clearly did not occur within “valid” guidelines, but at the same time I know the Church considers marriages valid unless proven otherwise. And to add - does this mean that she is still bound to her first marriage?


Pregnancy, of itself, does not speak to free will–she is still free to marry or not. There may be a question of her maturity and of pressure from others in this case, if it matters–but that would be something the tribunal would need to investigate to declare.

However, the marriages are easily annulled by lack of form–she neither married in the Church, nor did she have permission to marry without the Catholic form (ie, here by Justice of the Peace).


Strictly speaking, I think it is most accurate to say such “marriages” are inexistent in the law of the Church. There is no legal presumption of validity and no process is necessary in order for such a person to be allowed to marry in the Church.

In some places, the person is directed to the diocesan tribunal or chancery in order to show that he/she is free to marry. It would be incorrect, however, to say that the tribunal/chancery “judges” or “decrees” or “rules” that he/she is free to marry. Instead, whomever is charged with looking into the matter simply attests that the individual is, indeed, free to marry. This is not the result of any judicial or administrative process found in the law. It’s not a case. There is no judge. There is no defender of the bond.

The reason why there is some investigation of the matter is simply due to the fact that the person has been married according to civil law. The marriage record will indicate this. Prudence dictates that somebody has to see what that prior union was all about. This investigation does not begin with a presumption of validity for the union. It actually begins with the understanding that the person was never married.



OK. Putative marriages are assumed valid until shown or declared otherwise. The ease of such declaration is not important. What matters is that they are investigated and ruled on. So her first marriage is assumed valid–which makes her second marriage putatively invalid due to prior bond–until it is declared invalid. Again, that is easily done: there is no dispensation from form, nor was it a Catholic Marriage.

At that point, the second marriage is now putatively valid–but likewise it can be declared invalid (if she divorces) or sanated (if she wishes to remain married and “clean up” her status).

All it takes in the case of declaring her free of these marriages is to have the tribunal note that there was lack of form and issue the relevant decree. Sanation would take a bit more effort–such as making sure she is ready to marry and understands what is required (her actions indicate she does not yet know what marriage requires, canonically, and possibly also spiritually).

This is why every marriage and putative marriage must be investigated and ruled on in such cases–and in modern situations involving multiple prior marriages, as well as possibly still other marriages by former spouses of the spouses–it can take some doing to determine who is/was married to whom along the way.


I am hopefully starting to understand. So if she does nothing, then the Church would consider her still married to her first husband? She would have to take action to have either or both marriage nullified (is this the same thing as annulled?) or the second convalidated.


No. There is no presumption of validity when a Catholic marries outside the Church without dispensation. It is certainly invalid.


Both times you married outside of the Church and both times you did not obtain permission to do so, yes? You were baptized Catholic as a child, before the first marriage, yes? You have always been Catholic, yes? Then both marriages would be deemed invalid and if you desire you could fill out the forms, provide baptismal certificates, copies of divorce decrees, marriage licenses, etc. and file the paperwork and get a declaration of nullity for each. After that, you would be free to marry another person.

Or, you could file all that paperwork on your first marriage and get the declaration of nullity and then have the second one convalidated by your parish priest, thus resolving any issue/problem.

Right now you are not considered to be free to marry. You need the decree of nullity as part of being considered free to marry. You ought to ask your confessor about the topic of receiving communion and marital relations if you are still living with your current spouse.

To start the defect of form process, you would contact your parish priest. :slight_smile:


“For a marriage to be considered putative, it must have been celebrated according to the required form and, therefore, have the appearance of a marriage. Thus, when a Catholic enters marriage without observing the canonical form, and without being dispensed from its observance, the attempted marriage is not considered putative but simply invalid.”
New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law By John P. Beal, p. 1259

Archdiocese of Chicago* Metropolitan Tribunal *states:6. How is a marriage declared invalid for a “lack of canonical form”?

Marriages of Catholics or the Orthodox which are invalid because of lack of proper form can be declared invalid through an administrative process. This normally takes place when one of the parties wants to enter into a subsequent marriage. The request for an administrative declaration of nullity is normally sent in by the parish priest with the rest of the marriage papers. The parish priest should fill out a form called “Petition for Declaration of Nullity for Marriage Attempted Outside the Church,” and submit it to the Office for Canonical Services, along with the baptismal certificate of the Catholic or Orthodox party, a copy of the marriage license and divorce decree from the previous marriages, and two witness affidavits which state that the marriage never took place according to the proper form.

A typical administrative declaration of nullity in the Archdiocese of Chicago would take about two weeks to obtain, once the necessary papers have been sent to the Office for Canonical Services.


While there are numerous dioceses which use such terminology (“declared”, “administrative process” “petition for declaration…”), it doesn’t really fit. I suppose the term “administrative process” could be understood in a way that is different from what is in the Code but the bottom line is that this is not a “process” in which there is a petitioner, respondent, declarations, decrees, judges, etc. If it was, the Respondent would have certain rights (such as the right to contest it, supply evidence, and appeal the “decree” or have recourse). There are no such rights.



Yes the terminology is imprecise legally. But they do mean that submitting the documents and receiving the response is the administrative process.


Believe it or not, I know this sounds like the classic “I’m asking for a friend”, but in this case I actually am, someone close to me. She doesn’t want to know this info specifically, but I do, for my own reasons, some revolving around the children involved and others around my interpretation of the justice of the Church’s marriage laws. I myself was married in my childhood parish church where I received every single sacrament, so my marriage is probably pretty ironclad, for better or worse ;).


No, neither of the marriages is presumed valid. If there was a presumption of validity it would have to go through the full investigation. It was clarified in the 40s that for a Catholic only a marriage celebrated in the Catholic church constitutes a ‘putative marriage’.

In this case these marriages don’t even require a Tribunal ruling, although that’s how they are normally dealt with in North America. Our former bishop let priests deal with this during the marriage preparation.

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