Is divorce and remarriage allowed to a woman whose husband was sentenced for life?



I got married early in my life and gave birth to 2 children. Later a disaster happened – my husband committed a crime and was sentenced for life. After he was  jailed, I believed in God and got baptized. We communicate to each other by phone and social networks. He always encourages me to divorce him and does not want to help the children even though he has the possibility to do so. In 15 years his sentence will be reviewed and may be changed, but it may stay as it is now. That means he will be in jail for all his life. What should I do in this situation? I know that marriage is a covenant and that God is the witness of this covenant. Am I allowed to divorce him? If so, what is the right way to do it? If not, why? Is not my case an exception from the rule?

First I want to invite you to look together in the passage from the Scriptures where Lord Jesus gave answers to the Pharisees who wanted to know under what conditions was the divorce allowed.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”  He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”(Mathew 19:3-9)

According to this text:

  • the marriage you have with your husband was instituted by God
  • you are one flesh with your husband
  • you are not single now, even though he is in jail, you are one flesh
  • you do not have the right to separate what God has joined together
  • there is only one exception that permits divorce – and that is adultery, which did not happen in your case
  • the hardened heart sees divorce as a solution

In the light of the things discussed above you can not leave your husband and more than that not even allow this thought in your mind. Moreover, the disciples of Jesus understood very well how serious is the implication of  entering into a marriage. Look what the same text from the Gospel of Mathew continues to say:

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”(Mathew 19:10-12)

So, entering into a marriage, each person must understand that tough times may come that will require a lot of sacrifice towards husband or wife. They must be ready for that, otherwise it is better for you not to get married, but not all people can do this. 

In your case, maybe your husband thinks he will never come back to you and that is why he does not want to ruin your life, and for this reason he is asking for the divorce. Do not even listen to what he says. Tell him that the covenant of marriage is available for all the time you live together, and as a person that had entered into the Covenant with Jesus Christ, you want to be faithful to the covenant of marriage with your husband. Be thankful to God that you can communicate with your husband by phone and social networks and use these tools to share the Gospel with him, so these can help him to get saved. Talk to him about the love of God and the love you have for him. Make all the efforts to get the permission to go visit him and to be able to have the intimacy that you both miss. Make the effort, write wherever is required so that you can get your husband ΄s release after 15 years in jail. I do not know how your husband can help you take care of the children while in prison, but if it is possible ask him to help you, but do not insist too much. Maybe you imagine he is able to help, but in reality he can not do anything.  In the Word of God it is written how a righteous woman must relate to her husband:

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:12)

May God help you do as He says. Do your part and God will reward you while waiting, for it is written:

The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish. (Proverbs 10:28)

Also, marriage represents the image of the relation between Jesus Christ and His church. Now is the right time for you as a wife to show the world a true image about the church that is faithfylly waiting for Jesus to come back on this Earth. You simply do your part and live your life correctly showing the world the character of Christ. 

I know the story of a couple that met in the church and got married. After several years of their marriage, the police found that his wife had once commited a crime and was sentenced for life. Now her husband goes weekly over 300 km to visit his wife and makes all the efforts to do her good. Even if it is very hard, they show the world a beautiful image of faithfulness that is in God and the fact that they understood what marriage means. May God help you to be faithful to the covenant you have entered and reward your expectation not only on this earth, for in heaven you will be fully rewarded.

 Translated by: Curbet Valentina