Catholicism and Divorce – You have questions.  We have answers.

When your faith is strong but you know it is time to go, go smart.

Call 661ImSmart – (661)467-6278

What can you do for me?

In keeping with the Catholic faith, we can help you apply for a civil annulment of your marriage, a legal separation, or a divorce.  We can further advise you how to obtain an annulment through the Catholic Church so you are free to remarry.

Three ways to end a marriage in the eyes of the Church

The death of a spouse

Following the Catholic Church annulment process for the marriage

The dissolution of the marriage by Church authority

Under any of these three, the person is again considered single and is free to marry in the Catholic Church again.

Grounds for annulment

Catholic law – lack of capacity, lack of consent, lack of form


For a marriage to be legitimate, both parties must possess the necessary capacity for marriage. If either party lacks any essential criteria for marriage capability, the union will not be considered valid, providing a basis for annulment. Both individuals involved must meet these requirements. If one or both don’t have the necessary capacity, a legitimate marriage cannot be formed between them.

For instance, someone who is already married cannot enter into a marriage with another person. Likewise, active bishops, priests, deacons, and those committed to vows of celibacy are precluded from marrying.

There are also less apparent impediments. Being below the typical age limit (generally sixteen for males or fourteen for females) prohibits the formation of a valid marriage. As one of the purposes of marriage is procreation, an existing and permanent inability to engage in sexual intercourse prevents a person from marrying validly. It’s important to differentiate this from sterility, which doesn’t inherently prevent marriage.

Individuals who are closely related by blood cannot marry each other. This usually pertains to close relations like first cousins or uncles and nieces and direct ancestral or descendant relationships (such as grandfathers with granddaughters).

Any of these situations can lead to a marriage’s annulment due to a lack of requisite capacity. Moreover, if a person cannot genuinely consent to a marriage, they can’t validly partake in it. For instance, if someone lacks adequate cognitive capability or is grappling with a significant psychological condition, they might be deemed unfit to consent to marriage.

Consent (Canon 1626 et. seq.)

A marriage is valid under Catholic law only when a competent man and woman willingly consent to it. This means that both individuals should have an adequate grasp of what they’re agreeing to. If someone’s perception of marriage deviates significantly from the Church’s definition, then the Church won’t view that marriage as valid.

For clarity, the Church believes marriage to be a permanent union meant for procreation. If one party lacks this basic comprehension, they aren’t entering into the marriage authentically. Moreover, even with this understanding, if someone intentionally omits a fundamental quality or component of marriage, their consent is considered insufficient.

The core attributes of marriage are unity and permanence. Unity signifies that the marriage is an exclusive bond between a husband and wife, while permanence emphasizes its lifelong commitment. If one enters a marriage without the intent of loyalty, it undermines unity, thus making the marriage invalid. Similarly, if someone marries with the belief that they can easily opt for divorce if things go awry, they aren’t genuinely consenting to the permanence of marriage. Rejecting either of these central attributes can lead to annulment.

Marriage’s intrinsic elements involve, among other aspects, its purpose for procreation and raising children. Marrying with the resolve to permanently omit procreation from the relationship is invalid. This doesn’t imply that couples cannot make decisions about family planning (as long as they follow moral guidelines, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2368), but they shouldn’t exclude procreation entirely.

If a couple is sterile (which is different from impotence), the marriage can still have procreation as its intent if they don’t intentionally dismiss the potential of procreative acts, even if they know they can’t conceive. Additionally, they should be open to the upbringing, including religious teachings, of any children they might have. Thus, deliberately deciding against religious teachings for their children can invalidate the marriage.

Consent to marriage should be given freely. Any form of coercion undermines the consent. For instance, marriages under duress, like “shotgun weddings,” aren’t considered valid. Similarly, fears that impact judgment can render a marriage invalid, as seen in cases like unexpected pregnancies, especially with younger couples.

While these areas are broadly recognized, certain specifics, like age limitations for marriage, might be unique to the Catholic Church. Another aspect unique to the Catholic realm is the canonical form that dictates marriages involving at least one Catholic. This area is, unfortunately, not well-understood by many today, although it significantly impacts Catholics marrying non-Catholics. Different churches or communities may have their criteria, but for Catholics, these canonical forms are paramount.


For a Catholic to have a recognized marriage, it’s standard procedure to undergo a Catholic wedding ceremony. This typically involves a commitment made before a priest or deacon with two witnesses present. A person remains bound by these Catholic marital requirements even if they later distance themselves from the Church.

This regulation is enforced by the authority vested in the Church by Jesus Himself, allowing it to create laws binding its members (as seen in Matthew 16:18, 18:18). Therefore, a Catholic needs to follow the canonical form to ensure the legitimacy of their marriage.

Should a Catholic want to marry differently, say by following their fiancé’s Protestant tradition, they must first seek an exemption from their bishop from the standard Catholic procedure. This is typically facilitated by their local priest. Failing to secure this exemption and proceeding with a non-Catholic ceremony means the marriage isn’t recognized in the eyes of the Church, which can lead to annulment on the grounds of not observing the canonical form.

It’s worth noting that there’s an exception for Catholics marrying non-Catholic Christians from Eastern traditions, such as Eastern Orthodox Christians. If the ceremony takes place in the context of the non-Catholic partner’s church, not having the aforementioned exemption is considered irregular but doesn’t invalidate the marriage.

Moreover, if a Catholic is set to marry a non-Christian, they must secure a dispensation from their bishop for the union to be valid. To get this approval, the Catholic partner must assert their intention to avoid renouncing their faith and commit to raising any children from the marriage within the Catholic Church.

The non-Christian partner needs to be made aware of these obligations and promises. Both individuals should also be briefed about the fundamental principles of marriage that cannot be omitted. If the Catholic partner doesn’t get this dispensation from their bishop and proceeds with the marriage, the union won’t be valid, providing another basis for annulment.

California Law – incest, bigamy, underage, trick, lack of mental capacity, unable to consummate, force

Incest – The husband and wife are closely related.

Bigamy – One of the parties is still married.

Underage – One of the parties was under the age of 18 and did not obtain proper consent.

Lack of mental capacity – One of the parties is mentally disabled to a level he or she did not have the capacity to consent.

Unable to consummate – One of the parties is unable to have sexual intercourse.

Force – One of the parties was forced into the marriage by threat.

Obtaining a Catholic Annulment

Begin by submitting a request for a Declaration of Nullity, including written declarations and statements of at least two witnesses.  The individual initiating the request, known as the petitioner, first provides written accounts about the marriage and lists people who know the marital relationship. These individuals should be ready to provide insights into the couple and their marriage.

If the other partner, known as the respondent, hasn’t co-signed the petition, the tribunal will reach out to them. They have the right to participate in the process. However, if the respondent chooses not to be involved, the case can proceed.

A tribunal official, after reviewing the provided information, will determine the appropriate procedure to be followed. Regardless of the process chosen, both the petitioner and respondent have access to the testimonies provided, with the exception of data protected by civil law, like counseling records. Both parties also have the option to appoint a Church advocate to represent them during the tribunal proceedings.

The Church will also have a representative, known as the defender of the bond, to argue for the marriage’s legitimacy.

If the tribunal concludes that the marriage is null, the two parties can then get married within the Catholic Church. This is unless there’s an appeal against the decision or if the verdict prohibits either or both parties from remarrying until specific issues have been addressed, as outlined in the Code of Canon Law, 1682.1.