Previously married non Catholics

This was a question asked on facebook: The couple are both previously divorced and are now in RCIA. They are both baptized Christians one was baptized in the Catholic Church the other no experience with Catholicism. They are wondering if they need an annulment before getting married in the Catholic church.
My response was : I think that if you were married outside the Catholic Church the marriage is not valid.
A response to mine was: That is incorrect. It depends on many factors. The majority of non-Catholic marriages remain valid unions.

Does any one out there know the correct teaching on this question?


Leave Canon Law to canon lawyers.

The vast majority of speculation on such circumstances, especially on the Internet, is incorrect or misleading, IMO.


Better answer tbh

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Marriages in other churches and legal/natural marriages are recognized as marriages in the church, they just are not all recognized as sacramental marriages. If a couple has only been married to eachother and they convert to Catholicism from another denomination, they are still considered a married couple. They are not treated as two single people. Your answer was only fractionally correct.

The baptized Catholic needs an annulment. I can’t be sure of the non-Catholic. Consult a priest.

They both will need an annulment. The baptised Catholics should actually be simple if they married outside the Church as a Catholic needs to be married in the Church for it to be valid but a non Catholic does not.

I’m assuming you mean they were previously married to other people.

The baptized Catholic will either need a full case (if married in the Catholic Church previously) or a lack of form (if married outside the Catholic Church without dispensation)

The baptized Christian will need a full case annulment, unless his/her previous spouse was a Catholic and they married outside the Church.


In general, non Catholics marry validly when they marry each other civilly. Provided there are no impediments.

Catholics are required to marry in Catholic form or receive a dispensation.

So it’s possible the non Catholic will need a decree of nullity and it’s possible the Catholic has a lack of form which is just documentation. But the non Catholic could have some other sort of case depending on the baptismal status of the person she was married to and other factors

They should talk to their pastor

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I never realized this was such complicated topic. Thanks for the input.

God Bless

This isn’t correct.

They need to be declared free to have contracted their marriage.

That may or may not involve a nullity case for one or both of them.

Instead, it could involve lack of form, Ligamen, or dissolution of the bond depending on all the factors of the previous attempts at marriage.


It will be much less “complicated” if you speak privately with a Catholic priest and not on a public forum lol.
Ask a priest . Blessings to you.


It actually was a question asked on Facebook.

Point taken. I thought of lack of form but my understanding is that lack of form is an annulment, but a simplified process. I had not thought of dissolution of the bond and I don’t know of Ligamen.

No, lack of form doesn’t involve a decree of nullity nor the tribunal.

I don’t get why folks feel these types of questions can’t be asked here. Of course people will need to consult their priest or an advocate to get information on their particular case. There are many people on CAF who are very knowledgeable regarding marriage cases who can give a very good answer to questions. Those who don’t know much about marriage cases should refrain from responding.

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I, personally, might have a stone-cold correct answer but if we’re talking about a real scenario, the inquirer will have to approach those in authority and it won’t be my answer that means anything. Over the years, I’ve seen my 1,000% correct answer be rendered meaningless by reality. Maybe I helped, somehow, in spite of the futility of the exercise.

Nevertheless, I am no longer willing to risk putting myself in the middle of that sort of thing.

Hence, I have a hypotheticals-only rule.


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