Marriage and annulments

Got a question and not sure if this is the correct forum. My boyfriend has been married three times. First time when he was in his 20s and was divorced a year later. Second time was married 22 years and his wife died in 2005. Third time married and again widowed. He is Protestant and baptized. Not sure about his first wife. Was wondering if he would have to have his first marriage annulled for us to be married in the Catholic church. I don’t know much about the first wife and he has no contact with her - wouldn’t know how to find her. They were married by a minister.

Yes. He has a prior bond. Therefore, he is not free to marry.

He should meet with a priest, give him all the facts, and the priest will guide him.

Depends on his and his first wife’s religion, i.e. were either Catholic, non-Catholic Christian, etc.

Yes to your second point. Whether a prior bond existed we just don’t know according to the information given.

the second two marriages have ended with death, so they are not at issue. The only one who can help him answer this question is his parish priest. He is not free, btw, to date you until this is resolved. However you are missing some key info–is he baptized Catholic for one thing. My advice to avoid heartache is to keep this on a just friends level unless and until it is established by the Church that he is free to marry.

No - he was baptized - but not Catholic. His first wife was not Catholic either. Not certain how that impacts the situation.

Thanks to all for the input.

I both he and his spouse were baptized non-Catholic Christians, then there marriage would be (barring any other evidence) considered valid by the Catholic Church.

Please have him go talk to your priest. He will need to petition for a decree of nullity. There is certainly no guarantee he will receive one. His marriage might have been valid.

To be declared invalid, there would have to be a divine law impediment, or a defect of consent or intent on one of their parts.

I recommend the book Annulment: The Wedding That Was by Michael Smith Foster to help you both understand what nullity is and isn’t.

But, again, go see your priest.

Divorced only a year later? Sounds like there might be grounds for annulment, IMO. I’m not saying that being divorced a year later is grounds for annulment. I’m saying that it sounds like their was a defect in intent from the get go. Best suggestion – have your boyfriend talk it out with your priest.


You should find out what denomination he and/or his wife were from. If they were Pentecostal or Baptist, there’s some chance that their baptisms were invalid. If that were the case, the situation is completely different.

If BOTH of their baptisms were invalid, your boyfriend would be an “unbeliever.” If you two decide to get married, what you would need to apply for is not a decree of nullity, but the Pauline privilege. Your local bishop has the competence to grant this.

If one was validly baptized and the other not, you and your boyfriend can get married by applying for the Petrine privilege. Only the Pope has the competence to grant this, and you can apply for it through your bishop.


it is the very first question that will be asked in the investigation into the validity of his first marriage. In general, the Catholic church regards as valid the marriage of two non-Catholics unless or until it is proven otherwise. He needs to visit the pastor of the Catholic parish in which he resides and initiate an investigation into the validity of his first marriage (if the woman is still living) before he is free to marry or even date a Catholic.

The reason this information is relevant is because if one or the other was Catholic and they were married by a non-Catholic minister, the marriage is automatically considered invalid due to lack of form.


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