Ohio Catholic wife takes marriage case to Vatican tribunal to prevent ‘no fault’ divorce

An Ohio woman is waiting to hear from the Catholic Church’s international tribunal in Rome whether her husband has a lawful reason, according to the Catholic Code of Canon law, for leaving her and their four children.

MacFarlane feels she was abandoned for no just reason and the civil divorce system is hurting her family. A practicing Catholic, she turned to her Church and its code of laws.

In an attempt to save her marriage and protect her children from being forcibly removed from her home, MacFarlane took her case to the Diocese of Cleveland Tribunal.

MacFarlane believes that since her husband professes to be an obedient Catholic, there is the chance that he would stop his divorce if he was authoritatively advised by the Catholic Church that he is doing something unacceptable.

She asked the Cleveland Tribunal to determine whether her husband has “a lawful reason to leave” the marriage, according to canon 1153. However, the tribunal refused to investigate the case, so she appealed to the next higher court, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

The panel of three-judges in Cincinnati also rejected the petition. The case was then taken to the highest court, the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

If the Vatican Rota issues a decree, stating that MacFarlane’s husband does not have reason to leave the marriage and obtain a typical no-fault divorce, he could be restrained from using the civil courts to force his children to be removed from their mother. Also, he could be required to pay her long-term spousal support because she can’t get remarried. 

MacFarlane’s attorney advised the civil court of the couple's de facto prenuptial agreement to follow the Code of Canon Law and the Vatican Rota’s decision could provide guidance to lower tribunals throughout the United States. This case could also establish principles bishops might use for new regional church legislation, protecting sacramental marriages.

MacFarlane invites others to ask bishops to help defend marriage from no-fault divorce at:

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