Marriage Without A License


I have a question…

Why am I having such a hard time finding a priest to marry my fiancee and myself without a license?

We have been together for 9 years, living in sin. We have both decided to get back on the right path and live as good catholics. We don’t want to be living in sin any longer.

The problem is the fact that our son needs medical insurance. He was born a premie and has had medical issues all his life. For that reason, we can not find ANY insurance agency that will cover him. WE HAVE LOOKED EVERYWHERE! If we get married through a license, they will take away his insurance because I make to much they say. Our son needs insurance because of all the issues with health that he has.

We don’t care about tax benifits, last names or any other small things you get with marriage. We only want to be right with God. Can someone help us out?

I was told there may be some kind of spiritual union cerimony we can do? Do we have any options?




You cannot marry in the church without also marrying civilly. And, no, there is no such thing as a spiritual union ceremony.

I am sorry about your son’s medical condition. Every state has a risk pool for the uninsurable-- contact your state insurance department and ask about the risk pool. Eligibility for the state risk pool is not based on **your **income, but on your **son’s **condition. What your son has now is likely a program for low income children. If he loses that eligibility, then you should still be able to get insurance through the state risk pool. You might also want to look into a different job, one with a group insurance plan. Group plans must insure you son if you add him as a dependent on your insurance.

As it is now, you are putting money before God. You say your son needs insurance, but actually what he needs medical care… which he can get without insurance.

If the thought of having to pay for his medical care is keeping you from getting married, perhaps your priorities are out of order. No one wants to be stuck with huge medical bills, but many are. You might be for a while. Honoring God is more important that anything else. I hope you will consider that.


The only times I have read about people being married “in the church” but not “in the eyes of the law” have been cases in England, in the Church of England. Each time the impediment to civil marriage was medical insurance issues, such as you state. I have not heard of this being done in the U.S. though or in the Catholic church. I would post this question in the Ask An Apologist forum: Can I be married in the Catholic Church if there are good reasons I cannot marry civilly? Then outline the rest of the issues: you have a son, he has serious medical issues only covered by state insurance, your marriage would make him ineligible, you wish to be reconciled with the church and discontinue living in sin.

I would think any priest though would be more convinced of your sincerity to reconcile with the church by one of you moving out of the home temporarily (until the wedding). If this is impossible for reasons of care for the child, then you will still need to live according to your state in live (unmarried) chastely, what they call “living as brother and sister” until the marriage can be done. If you are serious, this is the first step.


Because it’s not legal without a license. Without it being legal, you are not considered married.
( It has to be filed legally for many reasons. )


There is a Canon Law that allows for the Sacrament of Marriage without a civil one but from what I understand it is for grave situations only .Canon 1130+ As important as medical insurance is -I don’t think it fits. Sorry.

Most states have insurance for children in low income families. Have you checked? There is a sliding scale up to a certain income.

You are definitely in a testing situation here. I’m not saying God is doing the testing btw. You want to do right by God .How far are you willing to go to do that?


I have a question about your insurance and what you said in your post. I have some limited experience in this area as I have a child with many health problems that qualifies for State Health Insurance (Medicaid). Is that what your child is receiving? If not, have you considered it?

I am confused by the part of your post that stated “if you got married through a liscense they will take away his insurance because you make too much”.

Getting married does not change your status as a father, you are his father, have always been his father? I am not trying to grill you or anything here, I am just completely confused as to why marriage would suddenly bring your income into the picture. Hasn’t your income and status as his father already been revealed to whomever is providing his insurance?

Perhaps you need legal insurance advice, I am not quite sure of all the details of your predicament. Sorry I wish I could help, I will pray for you.


because it is illegal
If the priest or deacon are recognized as valid witnesses by the civil authority they must comply with the civil laws.


actually I am not sure about your state but Michigan if you make a certain amount he will lose state medical insurance however if they stay "single’ he most likely is eligible due to mothers Income. and I assume she has “legal custody”

I was once told by a few different people (priests and deacons ) that I was technically married when i was engaged, was even shown scripture backing that, just think about what the angel talked Joseph out of doing when it came to Mary…

anyways medical insurance with a "sickly child may just mandate Grave matters anyways check with a Bishop
some things are better left to thier decision than a priests anyways. this would be one of them…

By the way for the record Its pretty easy to get madicaid for a single Parent but married have a much rougher time getting same insurance for children even with less income, its all red tape basically…

oh could always go over seas as well some countries do not require a license


Do you live in a state that recognizes common law marriages? I recently went to a class on annulments and the priest who is on a tribunal said that as far as the civil element of the marriage, if a state recognizes a common law marriage then the Church would recognize that civil element as well. After living together for 9 years you might very well be married in the eyes of the state, even without a marriage license.


Thanks for all the responses… I should have mentioned that my son is actually my step son. I have raised him since he was one. Paying medical bills of 20-30 grand is one thing, but he is hospitalized almost every other month. He is also in programs that help him and wouldnt accept him without insurance.

No, CA does not recognize common law. I am at the moment trying to get a few emploees at work to ask for medical with me. Stronger in numbers.

I was thinking about heading down to Mexico, it’s only 2 hours from me… But I am not sure what there laws are.


If I was in your position, I’d look into all avenues of which to get married in the Church. If the Church will not let it happen without a civil license, I’d go along being ‘married’ any way, for the health and sake of having a good home for my children. I’d ask the pastor if I should refrain from communion. If I cannot go in good conscience to the pastor to ask for forgiveness for living in wedlock out of wedlock (given the pastor’s advice), I’d pray to God for forgiveness. I myself have health problems, the care needed is the care needed. It may not come without insurance. The thing keeping you from being married is the governmental bureaucratic rules, that favor non marriage.

If this advice puts myself in sin, so be it. I’d rather not advice you to put the medical care of your son in jeopardy.


This is not true.

This is encouraging the person to commit sinful acts and possibly what the state would consider fraud.\

Catholic canon law requires the persons being married to be married in their own parish. And, to marry elsewhere requires the permission of their priest. I doubt their priest would consent to such when it is likely illegal & it was to commit insurance fraud.

Bad advice.


Yours is a tough situation, for sure. Perhaps it would be best to separate from your girlfriend (live as brother & sister, or live separately… not get out of her life) until such time as the boy is an adult so that she may care for him in the way he needs to be cared for.

A priest’s advice is best.

Remember, you cannot marry validly in the Catholic Church unless you marry in your own parish or get your pastor’s permission to celebrate marriage in another parish.


But it’s CA. :stuck_out_tongue: When has illegal with good intentions stopped public policy in CA?

Seriously it’s a sad, sad policy.

As for OP, make sure you don’t forget to take it to your pastor. Also try to find out some answers from multiple places, sometimes pastor’s don’t know everything and it’s possible they could be wrong.


Why doesn’t the child’s father pay support for him? Why isn’t the father required to pay for insurance for the boy? Has an attorney been contacted to get the biological father taken to court to support the child?


Mexico won’t cut it. They have licenses, etc. And this is not the era of the “Tiujuana” marriage, not with the Internet.

I would double-check at this site
and make sure your stepson doesn’t meet the requirements. I think he will. Scroll down to where it says
An overview of California’s health risk pool


sorry i dont buy that marry in parrish where live , if its Catholic it should be Catholic do they do things differently in the parrish down the street??? OR ARE THEY TRUELY UNIFORM.

as far as getting married overseas how is that illegal? people get married on CRUISE SHIPS ALL THE TIME,most without a license because its the HIGH SEAS LAW. and those marriages are very binding legally in the US just no license involved.

and yo also said that My deacon and priest were wrong, are you a bishop priest or deacon, or just someone whom knows everything, SCRIPTURE backs what they told me…and that is more than good enough for me as well.
if engaged people in scripture needed a divorce, to me that meant they were “technically married” non sacramental of course assuming consumation had not taken place…

see what you are forgetting is marriage is something between a man a woman and God, being engaged both the man and woman have given the permission for justification, the ring worn and shown to others makes everyone that ever sees it a witness, By attending marriage classes and meetings with the priest we sought to make God an even bigger part of the "marriage"
tell me where a few words spoke make any difference, and if so we both gave a "promise " to each other at the premarriage classes holding unity candles, now tell me whats the difference being you know more than priests and deacons and Bishops…



To the OP, since you are in California, have you looked into the Healthy Families program that provides inexpensive coverage for children?…)From


The Church governs the Sacraments and the church gives jurisdiction of marriage to the bishop of the diocese in which the person lives and the priest of the parish to which the person belongs.

I refer you to Canon Law:

Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons

Can. 1115 Marriages are to be celebrated in a parish where either of the contracting parties has a domicile, quasidomicile, or month long residence or, if it concerns transients, in the parish where they actually reside. With the permission of the proper ordinary or proper pastor, marriages can be celebrated elsewhere.

The suggestion to go to another country and marry legally while trying to keep that fact from the insurance company is fraud.

As to cruise ship weddings, you marry in the port from which you depart or a port of call-- and must have a license from that state or country. Only Princess cruises performs weddings at sea, and for those your wedding is legally registered in the country of Liberia.

It is up to the couple to make sure such documents will be accepted by their states. If they are not, then the couple must marry civilly in their state of residence.

None of which in any way solves the OPs problem-- which is that he wants to marry validly in the Catholic Church.

I am someone who knows how to read Canon Law, which is available for every Catholic.

An engagement does not marry a person.

You are not a Jew in 1st century Palestine. Betrothal was a legal contract in that culture. Engagement is not a legal contract in civil law or in Church law.

Engagement is not marriage.

First, the betrothal was a legal contract of the time. Second, Jewish marriages were not Sacramental. Third, Canon Law did not exist at that time.

It does now.

This is a discernment period, not marriage. If, during the discernment process of engagement you were to discover a reason not to marry you would separate. There is no investigation by the church of freedom to marry when an engagement ends because it is not a marriage.

Please see Catechism and Canon Law-- they make all the difference

You may have made some promises to each other, but they are not binding in Church law, and they are not sufficient to have contracted marriage.

Your deacon and priest may have been trying to emphasize the commitment you were making-- which is a great thing to do during marriage prep-- and maybe you misunderstood them. But if they in any way implied that engagement is equivalent to marriage in the eyes of the Church they were incorrect.

It’s easy enough to look up Church teaching on marriage.


They make the most tremendous difference.

If the wrong words are used in a baptism, it is not valid. If the wrong words are used during the consecration, Christ is not present in the Eucharist.

Words mean things. They are not just arbitrarily pulled from the hat with the caveat “or something like that” and then they mean what ever you want.

Married is married. Engaged is NOT married. <<<see the difference in the two words? They are DIFFERENT, and therefore mean different things.

Listen to 1ke - she’s not trying to give you a hard time, she knows what she’s talking about. And she IS right.


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