You may have gotten married in a church or another religious building – do you also need to go through a religious ceremony to solidify your divorce? The answer depends on your religion, your plans to remarry, and your personal beliefs.

When we talk about marriage, we are really talking about two different types of acts – marriage under federal and state law and marriage under religious law (if applicable). When you were married, you may have both been legally married (with paperwork from the courthouse) and married in a religious ceremony (with the help of a religious figure, such as a priest or rabbi). Divorce works the same way: you can get divorced through the court system, but you may also want to divorce with the help of your religious institution.

While many forms of Christianity do not require a religious divorce, some offer divorce rituals or proceedings. Two of the most common religions that sometimes require a religious aspect to divorce are Judaism and Catholicism. While there may not be any serious repressions for not seeking a religious divorce in the secular world, those who do not seek a religious divorce in these faiths may have difficulty remarrying within their church or temple or having a healthy spiritual life.

Just as you did not need to wed in a church or temple to be legally married, you do not need a religious ceremony or ritual in order to become legally divorced. However, some couples may choose to pursue a religious divorce in addition to a legal divorce in order to follow the laws and traditions of their faith.

Although divorce proceedings have become outdated in many religions, including most types of Christianity, they are still relevant in some faiths. Let’s take a closer look at two of the more common types of religious divorce in Washington State:

  • Catholic annulment. The Catholic Church does not believe in divorce. However, in certain circumstances, the church will grant a religious annulment, which invalidates the marriage. In the case of an annulment, the church decides that the marriage never really took place. A religious annulment can take place if, for example, the couple never intended to enter into a permanent, faithful, and fruitful union. To officially remarry in the Catholic Church, you must first be granted an annulment from the church.
  • Jewish Get. A get is a divorce document that some Jews are required to receive before remarrying. A get is issued only after a civil divorce has been granted, and may not be issued at all depending on the beliefs of the couple and their particular temple. The get proceedings involve a rabbi and witnesses and do not take more than an hour or two. During the get proceedings, the couple is not asked about their reasons for divorce, and in some traditions, the get is cut in half after it is signed.

Understanding both Washington State civil divorce proceedings and religious divorce proceedings is important to understanding the connection between divorce, law, culture, and religion. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we are sensitive to those relationships. To learn more about our legal services, please call 425-460-0550.

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