Is divorce a sin when one’s spouse is abusive?

Full Question

Is it a sin to divorce a spouse who is physically and emotionally abusive, after many attempts at resolving the behavior in couple’s therapy have failed?


No, it is not a sin to divorce such a spouse. The Code of Canon Law states:

A spouse who occasions grave danger of soul or body to the other or to the children, or otherwise makes the common life unduly difficult, provides the other spouse with a reason to leave, either by a decree of the local ordinary [e.g., bishop] or, if there is danger in delay, even on his or her own authority. (CIC 1153)

The canon does go on to state that once such a danger has passed, common life should be restored, but given the unique difficulties of abuse cases (e.g., promises to reform are all too often broken), an abused spouse may wish to allow an independent specialist such as a priest or a psychologist to determine if and when it is safe to resume common life.

The Church considers civil divorce in such cases to be the ecclesial equivalent of a legal separation and tolerates civil divorce sought for just cause (such as to ensure personal safety and/or the safety of children) to settle estate and child custody arrangements. The divorced person is still considered validly married and may not remarry in the Church unless and until an annulment is granted.

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Raphael Benedict

Raphael Benedict is a Catholic who wants nothing but to spread the catholic faith to reach the ends of the world. Make this possible by always sharing any article or prayers posted on your social media platforms. Remain blessed

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  1. If I went and talked to a priest and he gave me absolution even though I was divorced and remarried so I could receive communion, would that absolution hold until now…. I have not been to confession since then, many years ago. I would now like to go to confession …. could I receive absolution

  2. Yes..if after you go through your legal divorce, and the church agrees that an annulment should be issued…depends on the case…you wait until your annulment is finished, then..you are truly unmarried in the eyes of God, and the church.

  3. It is right to separate in my opinion . My dad was an alcoholic & my mum stayed with him 4 19 years of married . I was 18 & my brother was 13 when they separated . It was a relief 4 me I could come home when my mum was out & my dad was at home & feel safe . He never hit the family or was violent 2wards . He controlled the family , by shouting & putting the fear of god in them . He had a very good job at the BBC as a producer ,kept it 4 a long time & was well respected . There were just 2 Ted Smiths .

  4. Even if you physically abused and mental abused from your spouse? You will still stay in that situation? Why did God tell us go marry and be suffered? And still no to divorce? I’m hoping that you will not experience of what others felt in their marriage life…

  5. “The divorced person is still considered validly married and may not remarry in the Church unless and until an annulment is granted.”…enlighten me on this please…in short, the Church voids the marriage when the state annuls and an annulled person can remarry in a church wedding rite again with another person?

    1. Ador,
      The Church does not void the marriage. The Church declares the marriage null. The Church declares, after much investigation, that there was never a licit marriage in the first place. In other words not all of the factors were in place for the marriage to be considered a marriage. Once the Church makes that determination (that you have never married), then yes, you are as free as any other single person to marry. Notice I said marry, not remarry. The Church considers a licit marriage to be until death, so no one can “remarry” in the Church except a widow or widower.

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