Documentary Cases

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Rather than focusing on consent, documentary cases are a matter of law.  Here a person may be eligible to marry, but because of a violation of an invalidating law, the marriage is rendered invalid.  Invalidating laws include defect or lack of form, a previous bond of marriage, and certain diriment impediments.

For more information regarding Defect or Lack of Form Cases, click here. 

For more information regarding a Previous Bond of Marriage Case, click here.

The Diriment Impediment Cases are rarely used.  These are disqualifying laws that render a person ineligible for marriage.  If they exist, they are usually discovered during the marriage preparation period. The twelve impediments are included in Canons 1083-1094:

  • Lack of age – The age of consent for a girl is 14 and 16 for a boy.
  • Impotence – The Church does not consider a marriage consummated until sexual union takes place between the husband and wife. This does not include sterility which is neither an impediment nor a ground for annulment.
  • Disparity of Worship – This applies to marriages between a Catholic and a non-baptized person as distinguished from an interfaith marriage between a baptized Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic.  This impediment is normally removed by a dispensation from the local bishop.
  • Sacred Orders and Religious Vows – Priests and members of religious orders who have pronounced solemn vows may not marry without first obtaining a dispensation.
  • Abduction – This involves force and does not include elopement.
  • Murder – This is obviously seldom used, but it involves a case where you or your current spouse murdered your former partner in order to marry each other.
  • Consanguinity – Blood relatives may not marry if the relationship is close, that is “in the direct line and to the fourth degree collateral line.”
  • Affinity – This ground extends the consanguinity impediment to the relationship between you and the family of your former spouse, that is, your former in-laws, including mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or step-child, even if your former spouse is deceased.
  • Public Propriety – Extends consanguinity and affinity impediments to cover common law marriages and other informal sexual relationships.
  • Legal Relationship (Adoption) – You cannot marry someone you have adopted or a person closely related in the direct or collateral line to the adopted person.