Ligamen

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Ligamen is, in Roman Catholic canon law, an existing marriage tie, which constitutes an impediment to the contracting of a second marriage.

A person, already married, who wishes to marry again, must provide sufficient evidence of the death of the former spouse: an official death certificate, issued by the parish priest or other authorized ecclesiastic, or by the proper civil official, the directors of hospitals, the military commanding officer, or satisfactory evidence from other public records and reports.

A putative marriage must be presumed valid, and so constituting the impediment of ligamen, until it is proven invalid.

Should the second marriage have been contracted in good faith, if only by one party, and it subsequently appear that the first spouse still lived, then the second marriage would not only be invalid, but the parties to it must be separated by the ecclesiastical authorities, and the first marriage re-established. However, the second and invalid marriage would enjoy the advantage of being putative marriage. This second marriage, though illegal during the lifetime of the first spouse, may be validly contracted after his or her death; indeed, should the party who acted bona fide demand it, the guilty one is then bound to contract marriage validly with the petitioner.

Since monogamy and the indissolubility of marriage are founded on the natural law, this impediment of ligamen is binding also on non-Catholics and on the unbaptized. If an unbaptized person living in polygamy becomes a Christian, he must keep the wife he had first married and release the second, in case the first wife is converted with him. Otherwise, by virtue of the "Pauline privilege", the converted husband may choose that one of his wives who allows herself to be baptized.

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.