Washington State law does not discriminate on the basis of religion. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others all have the same right to get a divorce. However, a civil divorce granted by the state of Washington is not the same as a religious divorce. Currently, Catholics who divorce in the Archdiocese of Seattle, or anywhere else, may not receive communion or other sacraments unless they also obtain a church annulment.

Could This Rule Change?

It may be too early to tell. News reports indicate that Pope Francis has made remarks that indicate a possible willingness to change church doctrine and make it easier for divorced Catholics to fully participate in their faith. However, some cardinals who met with Pope Francis in Rome during February 2014 to discuss matters of marriage and family express doubt that such a sweeping change will occur. They claim that while they are concerned about Catholics who divorce the rules cannot be changed. Instead, some suggest that any change from the Church could come in the form of changes to the annulment process. An annulment essentially makes it as if the marriage never existed.

A meeting of the world’s bishops to further discuss issues of marriage and family is currently scheduled for October 2014.

Are You a Divorced Catholic in Washington State?

Have you been through a divorce? What effect did it have on how you practice your religion? What advice would you give to other Catholics who are seeking civil divorces? Please leave a comment and share your experience with others who may be going through similar situations.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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