The Ligamen Process

The Catholic Church teaches that in order to be free to enter into marriage, a person may not have an impediment (obstacle) which prevents that person from entering into a valid marriage. One of the impediments to marriage is that of a prior bond that has not been resolved by a marriage tribunal. If a person has a prior valid bond of marriage, one that has not been declared null, then that person is not free to marry another as long as the previous valid bond exists. This obstacle of a prior bond preventing one from entering into a second valid marriage is known as the impediment of ligamen. If the impediment of ligamen (prior bond) exists and a person attempts marriage to a second spouse, the second marriage is invalid due to the existence of the impediment.

The Church provides for a process which is used to establish the invalidity of a second (or later) marriage due to the impediment of ligamen. This would be done in the case where the second spouse now desires to enter into a valid marriage in the Catholic Church. The person seeking the decree of invalidity for his/her marriage due to a prior bond on the part of his/her spouse is known as the Petitioner. The ex-spouse of the Petitioner is known as the Respondent. The prior spouse of the Respondent is known as the Co-Respondent. In the example below, the impediment of ligamen arises from the marriage of Betty and Chuck, thus preventing Betty from entering into a valid marriage with Aaron. Thus, Aaron is free to marry Sarah.

Ligamen explained

The ligamen process seeks to obtain documentary evidence to establish the fact of the impediment of ligamen, i.e., that the Respondent was in a valid prior bond throughout the duration of the Petitioner-Respondent marriage and so was not free to marry the Petitioner. Thus, the Petitioner would be free to enter into a new marriage now. The information necessary as documentary evidence consists of written documents and testimony of witnesses who can corroborate the information provided by the Petitioner. If the required documents and testimony are obtainable, this is generally a shorter process than pursuing the former marriage as an annulment case. As the ligamen process is begun, if it is found that the necessary documents are not obtainable, then the process seeking to declare the marriage of the Petitioner and the Respondent invalid would need to be changed to a formal annulment case, if there are adequate reasons to support seeking the declaration of nullity.

Ligamen Frequently Asked Questions

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Where do I find additional information and applications?

You can access any forms or additional information you need by visiting the Forms and Documents page.

What documents will I need to obtain for the Ligamen process?

The marriage certificate and final divorce decree for the marriage between the Petitioner and the Respondent. These are civil public records.

The marriage certificate and final divorce decree of the Respondent’s previous marriage. Ordinarily, these documents are public records and available from the county seat where the civil action took place.

Baptismal certificates for any of the parties who are Roman Catholic.


Will my former spouse, or anyone else, be contacted about this process?

Yes. It is necessary to be in touch with either the Respondent or the Co-Respondent. At least one of them will be asked to complete a questionnaire to determine the facts of the situation, i.e., had either the Respondent or Co-Respondent ever been married before they married each other, was either party baptized Catholic, was the Co-Respondent alive during the Respondent’s marriage to the Petitioner, etc.

The Petitioner will also be asked to name two witnesses who have knowledge of the facts of the marriage and are willing to cooperate with the Tribunal to verify the information provided in the questionnaire. It is preferred that these witnesses be relatives and/or close friends. The Petitioner should select witnesses who have knowledge that the co-respondent was living from the time of the Petitioner and Respondent’s wedding until the Petitioner and Respondent separated. These witnesses are contacted via letter and asked to complete a questionnaire. The Respondent and Co-Respondent cannot be named as these witnesses.

Is there a cost associated with this process?

As of July 1, 2017, there is no longer a fee associated with the Ligamen process.