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When is a civil divorce insufficient for remarriage?

If you are a practicing Catholic whose faith is important to you, it's likely that you thought long and hard about filing for divorce. The Catholic church views marriage as a lifetime commitment but does allow for divorce under certain circumstances.

However, the real sticky wicket come about if and when a divorced person decides to remarry. In order to have the second marriage recognized by the Church and to also retain the full privileges of a communicant in the Catholic faith, the person must obtain an annulment through the Catholic church.

These types of annulments are completely different from a civil annulment that one might get under other circumstances. Civil annulments are granted for other reasons, and the venue for those types of proceedings will be the family courts. A Catholic annulment, however, is handled by church tribunals adhering to canon law that has nothing to do with the laws of the state of New York.

When marriages end in civil annulment, it is because one or more essential elements of a true marriage was lacking in the relationship. One or both parties may have not had the capacity to consent, or one of the parties may have been unable or unwilling to have sex and failed to disclose that prior to the marriage.

The Church acknowledges valid civil contracts and legitimizes any children born of the union, considering the relationship to be a "putative marriage." However, it ends there. The spiritual realm and repercussions of a Catholic marriage are handled by Church authorities outside of the civil processes initiated by family law attorneys.

Source: Catholic New Agency, "Catholic Marriage and annulments," Jacqueline Rapp, JCL and Pete Vere, JCL, accessed Feb. 26, 2016

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