Marrying a divorcee(non-catholic)


I have a question about our current situation and I would like some guidance or perhaps an clarification on what is happening.

I am marrying a catholic girl and we are wanting to have our ceremony at her church. She is catholic, and I am not (I am currently going to church with her though). The problem is that I was once married and divorced. From my understanding, in order for us to marry in the church, we need to have my previous wedding annulled, or declared invalid before we can proceed.

I met with the church pastor (or priest, apologies as I don’t know how his correct title), and we went over a brief questionnaire regarding my past marriage. In short, we were both 21 and 22 at the time ( am 31 now), married for 4 years, and divorced. In our marriage, we did not do it throughout he church as we were not religious, so we just ‘signed the papers’ at the city hall.

The reason we divorced, after I discussed with the pastor, he summarized it as “She felt he did not meet her expectations,” meaning, ex-wife felt that I did not meet her expectations.

The next step is that the pastor/priest will forward our packet to someone else to review our case…And this is where we are at.

My question is, what will happen next? Is this a complicate process that can last a long time? We want to marry in jan 2015, and my hope is that we can conclude the process within this month so we can arrange with the church. What’s the chances of this? If this is a long process, is there an expediting process to make it go faster?

And last question, what are the chances of a approving or denial in this situation? Is there a chance that the past marriage will not be annulled?

thanks for your input.


Realistically, you’re probably facing a wait of about 1 year or so, depending on the circumstances. I can give you a general outline of different forms this process can take, but please remember that I don’t know the details of your case. You may wish to consult with your fiancee’s pastor and/or a member of the Church tribunal.

Option #1:
Pauline privilege - this ONLY applies if neither of you was baptized, and if you intend to become Catholic. In this case, the local bishop can dissolve the marriage.

Option #2:
Petrine privilege/favour of the faith - this applies if YOU were baptized, and she was not (the baptized party cannot be the primary cause of the marriage breakdown). In this case, the Pope can dissolve the marriage. This usually takes several months.

Option #3:
Documentary procedure - this is only done in situations where an impediment to a valid marriage can be proven on paper, such as another previous marriage on her part, your being too closely related, her being a baptized Catholic and marrying outside the Church without a dispensation, etc. In these cases, it only takes a few weeks for the process to be completed because you can prove these things on paper. (If you were previously married before your first wife, this would not apply because the tribunal would need to determine whether or not your first marriage was invalid. If it was invalid, they would then need to prove that your subsequent marriage(s) were invalid.)

Option #4 (Likely the one you will go with)
Formal nullity trial. It’s important to realize that in the case of a declaration of nullity (NOT the Petrine/Pauline privileges) the Church is NOT “dissolving” your marriage. (The Church MAY dissolve non-sacramental marriages (i.e. marriages in which one or both parties had never been baptized) in specific circumstances, as I note above.) Rather, the Church is declaring that in the eyes of God, a true marriage never existed, that there were one or more reasons why you could not have had a valid marriage. They are NOT saying that you had no history, or there was no relationship. Rather, they are saying that a marriage covenant did not exist.

This process goes through several steps. It’s important to note that although it is structured similar to a trial, there is usually no actual courtroom proceeding. The whole thing is done through paperwork, in most cases. The marriage is considered valid until proven otherwise, so the burden of proof is on you to indicate that the marriage was not valid.


(Posting a second time in case the first time runs out)

In a formal nullity trial, you’re looking for a reason that the marriage was not valid. Consequently they’re looking for a problem that existed in advance of your being married. Reasons for nullity can include things like:
-Not being open to having children (sterile couples can marry, but they must be at least open to the possibility of children)
-Permanent, pre-existing inability to have intercourse
-Lack of understanding of the nature of marriage (i.e. that it is for the rest of your life)
-Not intending to be faithful
-Lack of valid consent (e.g. getting married because you were pregnant, because of financial reasons, etc. - in other words, you were somehow “forced” to marry by circumstances)
-(Rare) Killing a previous spouse in order to marry a new spouse (also called conjugicide)

I can speak to how the process worked for my husband (he was married before me; his ex left him after 4 years stating that she felt she was entitled to leave the marriage if she wasn’t happy, plus they only got married because she was pregnant). It may be different in your area.

Step 1: Obtain a preliminary study form. You can get this from your local pastor. They’ll ask questions about your courtship, about the wedding, about the problems in the marriage, when they started, what they were, what caused them, any indications of infidelity (this in and of itself is not a reason for nullity, unless you can prove there was no intent to be faithful), attitude towards having children, etc. The pastor/pastoral assistant has to fill out a paper as well about his assessment of your character and his understanding of your marital problems. You also have to provide contact information for yourself and your former spouse, and the names of three witnesses. You need to provide Baptismal certificates or affidavits of non-Baptism for yourself and your former spouse. You need a copy of your divorce certificate (to ensure that reconciliation is not possible), and, if you were not married in the Church, a certified copy of your marriage registration. You then submit this to your pastor, along with a filing fee. (There is a cost to you for this; it’s usually less than $1000. In our area, it costs about $900 total and they receive about 220 requests a year; as you can see, this is NOT a money-spinner - they have 7 people working in the office. If you honestly can’t afford to pay, something can be worked out - you will NOT be turned away.)

Step 2: The tribunal will determine whether there is enough information to begin a formal inquiry process. They’ll send you a letter back to this effect. They’ll invite you to an interview, either with your pastor or with a member of the tribunal staff. At this point, you’ll be assigned a “case instructor” - someone who acts as a liaison between you and the tribunal staff to guide you through the process.

Step 3: Your former spouse will be given a letter as well, indicating that you’ve begun nullity proceedings and inviting them to participate. They have a right to participate, or not, as they see fit. (DH’s ex chose not to participate. They went ahead without her and it did not affect the outcome.) My understanding is that they will wait for a reply, or, if there is no reply, they try a couple more attempts to contact the person and then wait a set period of time until they decide that the person is not interested. (DH’s ex indicated to our pastor that she did not wish to be involved, so this was not an issue.)

Step 4: Your three witnesses will be contacted and interviewed. You might also be asked for additional information, such as police reports, counselling reports, etc.

Step 5: The tribunal judges will review the case and grant a decree. You’ll get a letter stating that you have a certain number of days in which to come and review the evidence, if you wish. (DH chose not to.) Your ex-spouse will get the same letter.

Step 6: After the decree period has passed, the judges will review the case and then grant a decision. You’ll be notified of the decision by mail.

Step 7: If the decision is affirmative (i.e. marriage not valid) the case will automatically be sent to an appeals tribunal to be reviewed again. If the decision is negative (i.e. marriage valid) you have the right to appeal yourself, if you choose.

Step 8: The appeals tribunal will go over the evidence and decide how to proceed. They may ask for additional information, or they may decide just to go with what they have. They will then return their decision to the primary tribunal, who will notify you. If you don’t agree with the decision, you can appeal to the Roman Rota. If you receive two affirmative decisions (i.e. marriage not valid), you’re free to marry.

The ideal is that the first instance should take no more than one year, and the second no more than 6 months, but this is an ideal, not an absolute deadline. Sadly, it’s unlikely that it would be dealt with in time for a marriage in January. DH’s case took about 17 months. The exact time frame varies depending on the case.


The best thing to do in your particular situation is to ask the priest :slight_smile:


thanks for the detailed response. I’ll defn check with people at our church. I still have a couple of questions though…

So regarding option 1: the pauline privilege, Is there a chance that I can qualify for that? During my first marriage, neither of us were religious/baptized. Currently, I’m going to the church with my fiancé, with the intention of getting baptized at some point in the future. So in this case, would the pauline privilege apply? If so, is this something that I need to request directly?

My second question is regarding contacting the ex-spouse. What happens if I do not have her contact information? She’s a foreigner, and for all I know, she might have went back to her country after we separated…


As far as the Pauline privilege, it MAY apply. I’m not sure of the details. Your best bet is to lay out all of the facts before your priest. He can help you to determine the appropriate course of action. You shouldn’t need to request a Pauline privilege specifically from your priest - he would be able to help you decide if that is the appropriate path to to take, and then he will help you submit the paperwork.

If you don’t have her contact information, you might see if you have contact information for her parents or friends. (They ask for contact information for her parents, and yours, as part of the documentation.) The tribunal might be able to contact her that way.


If you sincerely wish to become Catholic - and not just as a loophole - and neither you or your previous spouse were baptized in any Christian church - then yes you might qualify for the Pauline Privilege. It wouldn’t hurt to specifically mention it to the priest - laying out all the details. God be with you!


well, I just started the process and was definitely an unpleasant experience…:frowning:

I met our church pastor and we did a brief questionnaire, which was forwarded to the ‘vice chancellor’ to take a longer recorded statement. I don’t know, the guy wasn’t friendly, his tone was aggressive and he didn’t to want to take his time to explain the process to me.

But anyways, I have a couple of questions to ask. So as I said, I went ahead and took a recorded statement, and he will get it transcribed and then sent back for me to review. I don’t know if it was the nerves, but I gave him some false statements that I want corrected, but he wouldn’t turn his recorder back on because it’s a “waste of time,” and he just told me to correct it when I get transcript.

The corrections I want to give aren’t clerical errors, but rather factual errors. Does making a correction on the transcript override what I said in the recorded statement, and will this be held against me in any way?

The correction is in regards to my ex-wife’s religion. When asked about her and her family’s religion, I immediately dismissed it and said they were not religious. However, thinking back, the answer should be that I don’t know. the truth is I do not know whether my ex-wife was ever baptized or not. and I do not know how ‘religious’ she was. we ‘tried’ to go to church a couple times, but we ended up not going because she couldn’t find the ‘right’ one. I personally never declared myself in any sort of religion and in my opinion, she didn’t either…but that’s my opinion only. Same for her parents. I have no idea if they were baptized or not (they did go to church on a casual occasion from what I know).

So obviously, I answered incorrectly and when they contact my ex-wife, she might consider her self a christian (and she might have been baptized, but I never knew, or I have forgotten), If this was the case, i would have made a false statement on a ‘sworn’ conversation. Once I get the transcript, will they let me correct this? Will this be held against me in any way?


The ex-wife’s baptism is significant. If she was baptized the Pauline Privilege would not be applicable. I believe it must be verified.CIC Can. 1143

§1. A marriage entered into by two non-baptized persons is dissolved by means of the pauline privilege in favor of the faith of the party who has received baptism by the very fact that a new marriage is contracted by the same party, provided that the non-baptized party departs.
§2. The non-baptized party is considered to depart if he or she does not wish to cohabit with the baptized party or to cohabit peacefully without affront to the Creator unless the baptized party, after baptism was received, has given the other a just cause for departing.


thank you. that makes sense.

As to regards to the question about misstatements, will that be an issue when they see a contradiction, or am I allowed to make amendments to it?


I think mistakes are normal and that can be corrected before you are done and it should also be verified with actual records or signed statements from others. All information is confidential as possible within the confines of civil and Canon law but both parties have the right to be made aware of the general marriage allegations put forth by the other.



So i have another question. As usual, for the church to process my paperwork, they need to interview 2 witnesses to verify information about me and about the ex. The priest first suggested my parents, but the problem is my parents do not live in the country, and are also not able to read and write. So we suggested my brother and my close friend instead(one who knows the most about my relationship with the ex).

The priest was interviewing my fiancé today and told her that if there is anyway for my parents to fly over to do the interview face to face with the priest, the process can be shortened by 2 to 3 months. My question is, is this true and how is it possible? Why does interviewing mom/dad vs interviewing brother/friend shorten the process? Don’t they just need to ask the same set of questions?


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