This question may be wrong. I think the right question is in the following link: How do Filipino Catholics get a church annulment when their state marriage is valid, considering the Philippines doesn't have divorce?


Let's say there's this Catholic couple married in the Catholic church and married in some state. Then one member of the two members of the couple discovers something that, for the sake of argument, would definitely render the marriage invalid:

  • Suppose this hypothetical something would be definitely be accepted as grounds for annulment in both church annulment and state annulment.

  • Suppose further that the member can definitely prove that hypothetical something beyond reasonable doubt in, again, both church and said state.

Can said member get a church annulment regardless of state annulment or divorce existence, proceedings or results? Please cite sources.

I don't see why the church would care if I'm state married, state annulled or state divorced if I could prove invalidity of my church marriage.

Related questions:

Why is it not that a state divorce is actually an argument AGAINST a church annulment petition rather than a necessary condition for such petition?

Why do Filipino Catholics have a harder time to get a church annulment?


Metropolitan Tribunal of Omaha says 'A copy of the divorce decree', but the article seems to be directed to Catholics who are civilly divorced and not civilly annulled and still church married.

Myth: 'A person’s divorce does not have to be final in order to apply for a declaration of nullity.'

Truth: 'To petition for a declaration of nullity you need to be civilly divorced. The Church presumes that all marriages are valid until proven otherwise and hopes that a couple in a troubled marriage will work at reconciliation.'


  • To clarify: I get that state annulment (all the more for state divorce) is not a sufficient condition. My question is whether or not a state annulment (or divorce) is a necessary condition.

  • One thing that comes to mind is ecclesiastical judicial economy. Without a state annulment, perhaps the church can simply claim being too busy to even entertain your claim. I completely understand if the queues are long, but I mean, as long as the queues as exist. Anyway, if such is the case, please cite a source.

  • Consider people who get married only in church but not in state, say, Antarctica or Mars. If the church in fact REQUIRES a state to marry people, please cite source.

  • Then again, it could be that I don't have a state annulment, not because my state marriage is valid, but because state divorce is cheaper.

  • Consider that I can't afford either a state annulment or state divorce.

  • Consider variations in state annulment laws. Then it would be possible that, say, for a Japanese Catholic and a Swedish Catholic with identical cases that the Japanese Catholic wouldn't be entertained because Japan doesn't recognise a certain thing as grounds for annulment while both Sweden and the Catholic church do, I think. Oh wait, the Japanese Catholic could always get a state divorce.

  • Consider places where there are no such possibilities of divorce such as the Philippines where annulments cost around USD$2,853. So, German Catholics in identical situations as Filipino Catholics would get entertained by the church because Germany has divorce, it seems. Also, the Philippines is a third world country. Good luck obtaining that can kind of money for the sake of a religious procedure. I didn't realise the church was charging that kind of money for its sacraments (I guess annulment is part of the sacrament of marriage).

  • 1
    please stop changing the question. the scope of this question has drifted. State clearly what problem that it is you are trying to solve (the standard SE model of asking a question on any SE site) and get rid of all of the clutter that you have added. You have made this question too broad with all of your fiddling, added material, and musings. I have deleted update 1: that is a separate question. Ask it separately please. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 19:41
  • what do you mean by "civilly annulled?" Where in the USCCB (you seem to be asking about Omaha, Neb, so USCCB guidance will govern) literature have you found a term for a civil decree of nullity? Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 19:51
  • @KorvinStarmast metropolitan tribunal of Omaha?
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:19
  • That term - civilly annulled - is nowhere in the linked document. Nowhere. Did actually read the document from the tribunal? (FWIW: The document looks very similar to the guidance in our diocese). I asked you about USCCB guidance. USCCB is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:25
  • @KorvinStarmast right yeah that. I never said civilly divorced or civilly annulled. Someone edited. My recent edit conjectured a vacuous inclusion of state annulment. My choice of adverb/adjective is state/state not civilly/civil.
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:28

3 Answers 3


No, church annulment does not require state annulment or state divorce.

This misunderstanding could be caused by chruch tribunals that require a copy of divorce decree (as stated in the question). The tribunal does so because the couple is obligated to give a document about its civil status by Art. 116 § 2 Dignitatis Conubii (DC) and most often this is a divorce decree.

Art. 116 § 2 There should be attached to the libellus [application] an authentic copy of the marriage certificate and, if need be, a document of the civil status of the parties.

The legislator does not assume a civil clarification of the couple's status, as can be seen by the phrase "if need be" and by the phrase "even civil [obligations]" in Art. 252 DC.

Art. 252 In the sentence the parties are to be warned about the moral obligations or even civil ones by which they may be bound in regard to the other party or offspring concerning support and education to be provided (can. 1689).

So we see, your marriage can be nullified even if you are married in civil law. Though if the intent of nullification is to marry again, it would not make any sense to stay married in civil law. Additionally the church has an interest, that all canonical valid marriages are recogniced by state, because full sense of marriage includes responsibilities in civil law. (This argument of course only applies if it is possible to dissolve the marriage in civil law.)

  • Thanks K-HB. Please see 'myths and truths' update. Does your answer change?
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 19:30
  • 1
    I have no idea where the legal opinion of the tribunal comes from. But I didn't study canon law. Maybe they mean, that without civil divorce they say to couples: "Try to reconciliate. If that doesn't work, divorce and come again."
    – K-HB
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 20:59
  • wait you said the church does not require and yet metropolitan tribunal of Omaha requires. What's going on? Are individual churches free to make their own additional requirements? Also you have to tag me to notify me please =) like this @BCLC
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 8:06
  • 1
    @BCLC Maybe I am wrong, maybe the tribunal is wrong. I don't know any law that requires divorce, but maybe the tribunal knows one. Maybe they only mean that the cannot think of a case in US, where it would be rational to search annulment but no divorce. I don't think the dioceses can make additional requirements, but maybe the apostolic see gave Omaha that authority. I don't know.
    – K-HB
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 9:39
  • K-HB, thanks. Actually, you do you kind of agree with Dcn. Andy if we restrict our scope to 'the intent of nullification is to marry again' ? Can you please further explain the last paragraph of your answer in relation to Catholic Filipinos with an invalid church marriage but a valid Philippine state marriage and are too poor to go abroad to get a state divorce?
    – BCLC
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 4:13

No, the Church doesn't need the law to recognize that you were not married by it, it simply has to look into the circumstances before the marriage. The Church doesn't need to put blinkers on until the state has spoken, as if it was subservient to the state or hasn't access to the couple or its own records. What is written in the books about your marriage is only relevant insofar as it portrays the truth, not otherwise (morally speaking).

What the state says about your married state is either lies or it is true. If there is a course of action you can take to make the state acknowledge you are not in fact married at this point in time (more specifically, you never were in the first place), then take it, but it's not necessary in order or the Church to say 'I didn't marry you/you did not marry yourselves.' That's an observation more than it is an action of any sort: and you are morally bound to conform to the truth of whether you were married according to the Church, than you are to any civil authority, all of which are below the Church.

  • 1
    I wish you are right. Source please? That's what I really need.
    – BCLC
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 23:45
  • The Church can't lie. It would be a lie for the Church to pretend you are still married when you never were. As such, the state doesn't come into Church anulment. It might come into state annulment, but that's it. Unless you can show me that the state's opinion on whether you are married is relevant to the Church, I see no reason to cite/ hunt down any sources here. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 0:01
  • My mom said that's what she was told by a Catholic priest at a catholic church. Also, the metropolitan tribunal of Omaha seems to disagree. What you're saying makes sense logically and is what I thought up until my mom told me what the priest told her. I believe all parties on my end are (Roman) Catholic.
    – BCLC
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 0:04
  • @BCLC If you question refers only to a case in Nebraska, please get rid of all of the added clutter about other cases. Please keep the question in scope. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 19:48
  • Sola Gratia, do you disagree with Dcn. Andy?
    – BCLC
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 14:56

In order to request an annulment in the Catholic Church, one must be divorced1 from one's spouse.

  • Note that a divorce is a civil procedure; there is no entry for the term divorce in the Code of Canon Law in English:

Can. 1085 §1. A person bound by the bond of a prior marriage, even if it was not consummated, invalidly attempts marriage.

§2. Even if the prior marriage is invalid or dissolved for any reason, it is not on that account permitted to contract another before the nullity or dissolution of the prior marriage is established legitimately and certainly.

A state annulment has nothing to do with a Catholic annulment. The heart is from the USCCB. You can see from Church thinking that a sacramental union was not present in a marriage (what everyone calls 'declared null').

"Annulment" is an unfortunate word that is sometimes used to refer to a Catholic "declaration of nullity." Actually, nothing is made null through the process. Rather, a Church tribunal (a Catholic Church court) declares that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.1

1 Under the USCCB guidance "dissolved" is synonymous with divorce; in other jurisdictions, a divorce may not be the only method of dissolution. Check with the council of bishops there for details.

One can read more about it at this link: Annulment.

  • 2
    Is divorce required even in places where divorces may be very difficult to obtain and, in particular, where an impediment that (according to the Church) invalidates a marriage (and thus justifies an annulment) is not recognized by the state as grounds for divorce? What exactly does canon law say about this? Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 20:38
  • 2
    @BCLC I see your point, but see the "Context" part in the question. This references Omaha Nebraska, USA. Sometimes a question can be simply answered. I am gonna slap a "needs citation" sticker on this answer though. I think it can be easily referenced though.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 1:24
  • 1
    It's fair game to ask about diocesan policy for the Catholic Church in any country. So by all means ask a different question. If the question can't be answered in detail universally (i.e. from the Catechism, or Canon Law), I think this is the only appropriate answer.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 13:45
  • 1
    Dcn. Andy, how does the link support your first statement? I don't see anything in 'What does the tribunal process involve?' or anywhere else in the page that says anything about the Catholic Church being interested in the state marriage/divorce/annulment. I suspect then that this is an individual parish decision related to ecclesiastical judicial economy
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 10:27
  • 1
    Dcn. Andy, what do you say to @AndreasBlass?
    – BCLC
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 10:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .