Marriage to divorced person then divorces from that person

If a single person marries a divorced individual outside of the Church, the marriage is invalid, correct? Also, what is the status of that previously single person divorces that person from the invalid marriage, is she automatically considered as never been married by the Church, and therefore free to marry within the Church?

It can be more complicated, depending on the status of the divorced person’s marriage, among other things.


If the divorced person is divorced from a valid marriage, then that is a diriment impediment (makes it invalid.) However, since marriage enjoys the favor of the law, they are considered valid until judged otherwise.

A divorce after an invalid marriage generally is going to normally require a nullity investigation.

One exception for this is the “lack of form” problem, caused by Catholics marrying outside the Church.

In such cases, the tribunal has to go “all the way upstream” for both prospective spouses, and investigate each and every marriage and attempt at marriage. For “lack of form” declarations, it’s pretty much just assembling paperwork, verifying it, and establishing that this marriage was invalid. For declarations of nullity based upon subjective factors (psychological, etc.), it gets far more complicated.


First, a marriage is invalid if a Catholic attempts marriage outside Catholic form without dispensation, regardless of the prior marital status of the person they attempt marriage with.

As for non-Catholics marrying each other, that becomes a more complex question that would require a lot more information.

She is a person who needs to go to confession and resume the sacramental life.

In many places, the US and Canada for example, the Catholic would present paperwork to the diocese documenting this invalid attempt at marriage to receive a confirmation of their freedom to marry in the Church.

This isn’t a decree of nullity. It is just a paperwork process to document freedom to marry.

In Europe, the parish priest typically handles this, it doesn’t go to the diocese.

In essence, yes, but in some places it requires submitting paperwork (proof of Catholic baptism plus marriage and divorce certificates) to have this confirmed.

Thank you for contributing. To enable a more definitive answer, I need to clarify my question.
Single, Catholic woman had never been married previously.
The divorced man whose original marriage was within the Catholic Church, but his divorce was not approved/ or annulled by the Church. He and the Single woman were then married outside of the Church in a civil ceremony. After twelve years they divorced.
Q1 What is her status within the Church to remarry?

Q2 Does she need to petition the Church for dispensation to marry within the Church to another Catholic man?

Q3 If she does need to petition the Church what does she need to provide as part of the petition?

The Catholic woman did not contract a valid marriage. The man’s history is really not relevant.

This is primarily a case of documenting her freedom to marry.

The woman should go to her pastor, explain the situation, and provide paperwork necessary to document freedom to marry.

This would include the woman’s baptismal records (these should be requested from the church where she was baptized), The record of the civil marriage and the divorce decree.

The priest would complete a form and submit this to the diocese. It takes a few weeks usually to get a response that would declare freedom to marry.

No. A dispensation is asking the bishop to waive one of the canonical requirements for marriage. For example a dispensation is needed when a Catholic wants to marry an unbaptized person. I think you are possibly confusing terms here.

See above. The woman should make an appointment with her pastor, and he will guide her as to everything that she needs to provide.

Thank you very much. Yes, it does appear that I was confusing the terminology. Your answer is very clear.

Man, that type of baptism must hurt! :wink:

Could this be a case of machine translation gone wrong — perhaps looking for the word for “cleansing” and returning this word? @1ke, I mean no offense by this whatsoever, but did you write this in a language other than English, then use a machine translator (e.g., Google Translate)?

I have gotten tripped up in machine translations from time to time, myself. They’re not an exact science.

Should have been Catholic

Ha! Weird auto correct.

I just figured autocorrect struck again.

Classic case of overthinking. Mea culpa.

It would not be automatic. It would need to be investigated and a ruling clearing the marriage to go forward would be needed.

The couple would have to approach their pastor, and he would interview them to get basic information about their situation. He would then refer the divorced individual to the diocesan tribunal, which request the marriage certificates and divorce decrees of the former purported spouse. They may also request and review sacramental records if available. The tribunal would have to complete its investigation and clear the divorced spouse to marry within the church.

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If the single person was Catholic, her marriage was outside of the church to a divorced person, then it was invalid. She doesn’t need to go through the annulment process, she would need just a declaration that her marriage lacked proper form. I can’t remember what that is officially called.

If the single person wasn’t Catholic, I actually think it is similar. Because there is the assumption that the divorced and remarried spouse first marriage was valid.

It still goes through the tribunal for annulment, but the investigation is simplified because they need only prove lack of form.

The Church’s law on this is complex. So, if this is a real life situation and not just a thought exercise I would advise either (1) seeking expert advice from a qualified and recognised canon lawyer or (2) taking the matter to your diocese’s tribunal. If it is just a thought exercise follow the discussion here but bear in mind armchair canon lawyers do not always get it right.

No it doesn’t.

Let’s be precise with terminology. It is not an annulment, it does not go to the tribunal as a nullity case.

Indeed. Even bona fide canon lawyers might not always get it right (myself excepted, of course).


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