Ely Diocesan Registry

Marriage After Divorce

In July 2002, the General Synod of the Church of England decided to rescind the marriage resolutions of the Convocations of Canterbury and York, which had urged clergy not to use the marriage service in the case of anyone who had a former partner still living. In November 2002, the House of Bishops issued Advice to Clergy concerning the procedure to be followed when one of the applicants for a marriage licence is a divorced person with a former spouse still living. The Synod made it clear that the decision whether to solemnize such marriages rests with the incumbent (or officiating minister, provided the incumbent is prepared for his/her church to be used for the marriage). Whilst parishioners normally have the right to be married in the parish church of the parish where they live, a member of the clergy is entitled by law to refuse to remarry a divorced person in church whilst the former spouse is still living. (See Section 8 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965.)

The House of Bishops discussed the issue of Common Licences in respect of those being married in church after divorce. The House resolved that Common Licences should be available to the divorced, provided that the Advice to the clergy had been complied with. The General Synod Office has produced for enquiring couples a Form and Explanatory Statement concerning marriage in church after divorce. The member of the clergy concerned should interview the couple, in accordance with the Advice to Clergy, and ask the couple to complete the Form and Explanatory Statement. Before going ahead with a Common Licence application, the officiating priest should conclude that the couple's situation falls within the Advice to the Clergy and should complete sections 5 & 6 of the Form setting out their reasons for giving support.