Marriage & Divorce Question

Hi There! I’m new to this site and I’m not sure how to ask a question so I’m going to try it this way…

My boyfriend and I are discerning marriage however, he’s previously been married. He is a catholic and so is his ex wife. Hi ex wife was married before in the catholic church and they got a civil divorce but he first marriage was never annulled. My boyfriend proposed marriage to her because she and he kids needed health insurance and they could receive his if they were married. So they got married in Reno and were separated months later and divorced/civilly annulled within a year.

Since her marriage in the church was never annulled doesn’t that mean his marriage to her was never valid? Will we have any problems if we decide to enter the sacrament of marriage in the future?

Any advice and words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

his previous marriage was not a valid marriage because the ex-wife would have needed an annulment to marry your boyfriend. Also as a Catholic the Reno marriage wouldn’t have been recognized because it was not a sacramental marriage.

Your boyfriend should contact his parish priest and make sure he is cleared of his past history so that he is free to take vows in a sacramental marriage.

Welcome to CAF! :wave:

From what you have described, his first marriage would be invalid due to lack of proper form. As a baptized Catholic, he is bound by Canon Law, which states that Catholics must be married in a Catholic Church unless they have a dispensation from their local bishop. Canon Law also states that Catholics can only validly marry those who are free to marry (and, without the annulment of the ex-wife’s first marriage, she would not have been able to validly marry your boyfriend).

HOWEVER, even though this looks pretty clear cut (and “lack of form” cases are not nearly so long and complicated as annulment cases), he still should talk to his parish priest about it and contact the Diocesan Tribunal Office about what steps he needs to take to get all his ducks in a row. It may simply involve filling out a few forms with the diocese, but it’s better to get that taken care of sooner rather than later. Then you both can have that peace of mind that things can move forward unhindered.

God bless!

I assist my parish with annulment preparations, and what the others have already stated in this thread is correct. I will simply elaborate on this information a bit further.

Objectively speaking, your boyfriend’s previous marriage was invalid. As Joe 5859 correctly explained in his post, his previous marriage had an issue of “Lack of Form.”

And if that was not enough, his previous marriage would be invalid due to what is called “Prior Bond.” In other words (as vsedriver stated earlier), because his wife was already married and her first marriage was not annulled, she was not free to marry your boyfriend. (I’m assuming her ex-husband was still alive at the time she married your boyfriend, but even if he was deceased it is still an issue with Lack of Form).

Nevertheless, even though I can make such objective statements on an internet forum board, your boyfriend’s marriage still needs to be examined by the local diocesan Tribunal for an official declaration of nullity to be given. Until this happens, in the eyes of the Catholic Church your boyfriend is not free to get married to you because his first marriage is still presumed valid unless officially proven otherwise by a Tribunal. He should speak with his pastor, and his pastor will be his liaison with the Tribunal. FWIW, a Lack of Form annulment investigation is fairly quick and does not involve much paperwork.

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