When is a civil divorce permissible?


I know the main example given is when there is physical abuse.

but that is not the only kind of abuse, there is also emotional and verbal abuse

or what about and adulterous spouse who continues in his adultery and simply comes home because they feel it’s easier than moving out. and still expects you to cook for them, take care of them eTC…

or a spouse who has simply given up on the marriage and refuses to try anything. maybe to addiction or other reasons

or a spouse that superficially apologizes but has no intention of changing

I’ve also heard that a faithful spouse should never be the one to initiate the divorce.

I understand carrying our crosses dna turning the other cheek, but does God expect us to remain in truly horrible situations?

and I am certainly not advocating divorces for trivial reasons, such as finances, or no more romantic feelings etC…


Personally I went through a very nasty divorce in 1987 after 3 1/2 years of marriage. It was verbal abuse and occasions of physical abuse. He was also unfaithful. To the extreme. He had 8 affairs that I know of during that time. Then I got kicked out for not being good enough. My parents were actually the ones who hired the attorney for the divorce. I got it, and in the “findings” the judge put in that for there to be expectations of me returning to him (my ex) would be “cruel and inhumane.”

So, I say that this is definitely reason enough for a civil divorce. Of course, that was well before I became a Catholic. About a year after that I applied for an annulment. Several months later, it was given. I don’t know what anyone else said, just that it was granted. I had applied for the annulment (in 1998) as another step to put that behind me. And I can say that I felt better about doing so. Why I married him in the first place leaves me scratching my head. How stupid could I be to not see the man for who he was!!


Wow. Our stories are pretty similar. I am very sorry that you endured abuse. So did I. In my case, the adultery was bad, but I stayed and tried to work it out, with zero cooperation. It was the physical abuse that led to the divorce. I could not have my children witness that. I also applied for annulment after deciding to become Catholic. I found the process overwhelming at times. Especially re-living some of the horrible events in the marriage. Faith gets us through anything, I have learned.
My ex never had any intention of fidelity; I was blind to that fact.
God bless you for surviving and finding peace.


I do not believe that the Church requires you to live in an abusive situation, no matter of what nature. Sometimes a civil resolution of common property is needed to escape the situation entirely. It is always complex where children are involved. However often they are more realistic than the abused spouse. It is nearly always the innocent partner that suffers the most in concern for the marriage, children and their future whilst the selfish flutter from flower to flower. Justice often demands a civil divorce even if the marriage is still licit. It is these innocents that should be allowed to return to the Eucharist as long as they do not “remarry” without annulment.


Can. 1153 §1 A spouse who occasions grave danger of soul or body to the other or to the children, or otherwise makes the common life unduly difficult, provides the other spouse with a reason to leave, either by a decree of the local Ordinary or, if there is danger in delay, even on his or her own authority.
§2 In all cases, when the reason for separation ceases, the common conjugal life is to be restored, unless otherwise provided by ecclesiastical authority.
Can. 1154 When a separation of spouses has taken place, provision is always, and in good time, to be made for the due maintenance and upbringing of the children.
Can. 1155 The innocent spouse may laudably readmit the other spouse to the conjugal life, in which case he or she renounces the right to separation

Code of Canon Law

2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.
If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.

Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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