01
Sep

The Sticky CLM Issue That Can & Will Stop Your Prison Wedding Planning Process…

Last night while texting back to a client I was asked “can a Warden deny the I60?” The answer is yes. But, there must be a valid reason for a Denial. Wardens don’t simply “just say no.”

Let’s go over the primary reason for a Denial. The old CLM issue that most inmates claim “they forgot about.” TDCJ didn’t forget. In fact, whether the inmate went into the system claiming a CLM Status off the bat or years later, filed a CLM Affidavit in order to obtain contact visits, inmate records forwarded this information to the Courts in Huntsville. 

Meaning… based on the CLM Affidavit, the inmate was granted contact visits. Let me clarify for my spies and trolls that a contact visit IS NOT a conjugal visit. A contact visit means there is no glass separating the inmate from the other person. Texas does not allow conjugal visits. 

Last nights client had a fairly unique situation that I’ve yet to encounter and because it’s difficult to surprise me, we will dive in to why TDCJ doesn’t throw away a CLM status EVEN when the inmate is no longer incarcerated. She had filed a CLM Affidavit with another inmate years ago. Because the other inmate had been released, she also assumed that her current fiancées I60 would be Approved if he wasn’t listed as CLM to someone other than her. Yes, this is a Two Fer. The inmate she’s trying to marry is also listed as CLM to someone other than her. Stay tuned. 

In order to abolish the CLM status, a Dissolution Agreement must be notarized and forwarded to inmate records from the law library by the currently incarcerated inmate. On the outside, a Dissolution Agreement must be notarized and sent to Huntsville to quash the record listing the other party as being CLM or Common Law Married to an inmate although the inmate is no longer in the system. 

Before everyone else reading this who happens to have encountered the same problem starts contacting me to send them my Dissolution Agreement, I’m not in the business of solving strangers problems. I provide Dissolution Agreements to MY CLIENTS as a courtesy. 

Certain Units May also require a Texas Marriage or Divorce Verification Sheet. How do you get one? Here’s the link– Texas Vital Statistics Marriage And Divorce Verification.

Rather than argue with strangers regarding the legality of a CLM Affidavit “outside of the system,” I will use this opportunity to educate and enlighten a few people that assume or believe that Common Law Marriage in Texas is “easy to prove.” It isn’t. The Informal Marriage Affidavit exists BECAUSE it isn’t easy to prove Common Law Marriage. 

For all of the numskulls out there contacting me to tell me “you have to get a divorce if you are CLM,” I’ve got a news flash for you, if a legal marriage cannot be proven, a divorce cannot be filed. The REQUIREMENT of an Informal Marriage in Texas is that BOTH Parties are PRESENT to file an Informal Marriage Affidavit. If one person is in prison, obviously they aren’t filing a CLM Affidavit in person.

DECLARATION AND REGISTRATION OF AN INFORMAL MARRIAGE (COMMON LAW)

An informal marriage license can be obtained and recorded by a couple who agree to be married, and after the agreement, they lived together in this state as a couple and represented to others that they were married.

Both parties must be present. An absentee affidavit cannot be used for an informal marriage license.

A person under 18 years of age may not obtain an informal marriage license.

A person may not obtain an informal marriage license if presently married to someone else.

The fee is $36 cash, Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover. 

Now… for everyone wondering how in the heck Informal Marriage Affidavits wound up in Texas Prisons, the widespread misuse of these Affidavits were meant to validate or at the very least verify that the inmate had a relationship other than friendship with the other party. No one likes the glass. No one likes the phones that rarely work and inmates wanted contact visits. In fact, most inmates described this document as a “piece of paper” to the person they wanted to sign it. 

Most of my clients have no idea that the inmate ever filed a CLM with someone other than themselves UNTIL they try going through the Prison Wedding Planning Process. Why? Because the I60 is DENIED based on the inmates status OR the client had signed a CLM Affidavit with another inmate in order to obtain contact visits and didn’t tell the inmate they are attempting to marry because they never assumed that it would come up. 

The CLM Sucker Punch… CLM Affidavits don’t go away on their own. If you have EVER filed a CLM Affidavit, TDCJ has kept it on file. Rather than screaming and crying, calm down. Call me. We will work through undoing the CLM Status. 

For everyone else contacting me to tell me “we are legally married. It’s easy to prove Common Law Marriage in Texas,” I hope you never need to test your theory in probate court. My father lived with Gretta for six years. My father and Gretta filed joint tax returns, shared checking accounts and lived as husband and wife but THEY NEVER FILED AN INFORMAL MARRIAGE AFFIDAVIT TOGETHER. Because they hadn’t, even with a will, my father never won or much less proved Common Law Marriage. 

These Affidavits when filed together by both parties in the clerks office ARE LEGALLY BINDING AND REQUIRE A DIVORCE BOTH IN AND OUTSIDE OF TEXAS. 

The primary difference between Informal and Formal Marriage in Texas is that a Formal Marriage REQUIRES AN OFFICIANT AND CEREMONY. An Informal Marriage Affidavit “skips” the ceremony AND Officiant requirements.

Regarding Married versus Common Law Married Status within TDCJ. These are two different things. Outside of TDCJ, there are two types of marriage licenses. One is an Informal Marriage Affidavit. This must be be filed at the clerks office by both parties to be a legally binding marriage. The main variation of the Informal Marriage License versus the Formal Marriage License is that the cost is less, there is no Officiant and there is no ceremony. 
A Formal Marriage requires a Formal Marriage License, Officiant and both parties present as well as a wedding ceremony taking place. 
The widespread misuse of the Informal Marriage Affidavit fo obtain contact visits within TDCJ is due in part to the ease of which inmates can file this document. 
Many of my clients have no idea a CLM status even exists UNTIL they attempt to marry an inmate and are denied due to a pre existing CLM status with someone other than themselves. Undoing a CLM status is and can be a hurdle. 
Although outside of TDCJ, the Informal Marriage Affidavit is invalid because it wasn’t filed at the clerks office by both parties, TDCJ will make removing the other party a real hassle by insisting on a divorce for a marriage that wasn’t legal. 
If the Informal Marriage wasn’t filed and recorded AT A COUNTY CLERKS OFFICE you cannot file a divorce regarding the union. A legal marriage must exist to file a legal divorce. 
Inmates gain the CLM classification two ways. Either they went into the system proclaiming to be Common Law Married and DID NOT sign a CLM Affidavit or after being in the system, they had their girlfriend sign one proclaiming to consider themselves Common Law Married. This changes the inmates status from Single to CLM. But only within TDCJ. 
Outside of TDCJ, the other party can easily legally marry someone else “on the outside” while the inmate cannot marry anyone else “on the outside” due to the status. Why? Because the Informal Marriage Affidavit WAS NOT FILED IN PERSON BY BOTH PARTIES at the clerks office. This allows the person on the outside to marry anyone not within TDCJ. After release, an inmate can also marry anyone they choose to. However, while incarcerated, that TDCJ CLM status is going to prevent anyone on the outside from marrying an inmate on the inside from anyone other than the party listed as being his or hers Common Law Partner within TDCJ. 
I’ve had many strangers attempt to argue the point as to a CLM affidavit filed within TDCJ “being a legally binding marriage.” Listen, I’ve spent years in courtrooms. YEARS. Prior to Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures, The Pawning Planners and TDCJ Officiant, I owned Defending Debt Lawsuits and sold it to start Texas Twins Events. Don’t attempt to argue law with me. Educate yourself. Buy a family law book for this state. Understand and comprehend marriage law. Study TDCJ policy and procedure. Comprehend the Administrative Directive but don’t attempt to convince me that you know more about marriage law than I do. You don’t. 
You cannot BE living as husband and wife when one of you is incarcerated. Think about it. Living together is a requirement of proclaiming to be CLM. Many of these CLM Affidavits filed by inmates are filed AFTER being incarcerated. How on earth are they living with another party while they are living at a prison? Short answer? They aren’t. They wanted contact visits and realized that by filing a CLM Affidavit with TDCJ they could obtain contact visits. 
Proving a Common Law Marriage is far more difficult than uninformed people believe the process to be OUTSIDE of TDCJ. Why do you think the Informal Marriage Affidavit process and option exist in the first place? You know, if it was “so easy to prove to be Common Law Married.” It isn’t. 
How do you know if your inmate is listed as CLM to someone other than you? You could ask. Or, you could plan your prison wedding and stumble upon this information yourself. It’s devastating I can assure you to be thrown a curve ball that you didn’t see coming. 
The easiest way to undo a CLM status between the inmate and someone else is to have both of them sign and notarize a Dissolution Agreement. What if you don’t know who the other person is? How to contact them? You can try to dissolve the status by having the inmate file a Dissolution Agreement but some Units refuse to notarize this document and suggest the inmate file an Unsworn Declaration instead. Others demand a divorce for a marriage that never occurred. It is a problem. It’s a problem that you will need to overcome prior to being granted permission to marry an inmate. 
What if you the person on the outside signed a CLM Affidavit with another inmate in the TDCJ system and now are trying to marry another inmate? Same scenario. Even if the initial inmate you signed the affidavit with is NO LONGER INCARCERATED, TDCJ records will reflect that you are CLM and therefore not entitled to marry another inmate. 
This widespread misuse of CLM Affidavits is an ongoing problem in Texas. However, outside of TDCJ, these “marriages” are not legally binding and do not prevent anyone being listed as CLM to an inmate from marrying someone not within TDCJ. 
Unraveling this ball of yarn requires patience and dedication. On the side of the inmate, it also requires honesty. Let’s review why they had someone sign that CLM Affidavit to begin with. Contact visits. “It’s just a piece of paper.” It isn’t. TDCJ allowed contact visits based on the Affidavit. 
Now, let’s address this “elephant in the room” with a few Units who denied an I60 Request For Inmate Marriage to couples who were listed as CLM to the same person they were trying to legally marry… back before the Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate marriage was changed to allow inmate marriages, the pre existing status of being CLM blocked a legal marriage. The new Administrative Directive allowed a legal marriage to occur within TDCJ with the SAME parties listed as CLM. My clients contacted me and explained the problem. I involved the Courts and overcame the problem. The Courts like me know the policy and procedure. They are your friends whether you realize it or not when planning your Prison Wedding. 
Knowledge and experience are how and why I overcome hurdles. I have successfully married clients who were previously CLM to each other then later denied the ability to legally marry. That’s right. Over and over again too. A Denial isn’t final but it is the beginning of a process to obtain permission to marry. I have also successfully married couples who unwittingly encountered the “sticky CLM issue” of the inmate being listed as Common Law Married to someone other than them. It took months but… we unraveled the status and finally got them married. 
A CLM status to anyone other than you is frustrating, infuriating and surprising. No one expects it. For inmates who claim that they “can’t remember” either filing this status when going in or signing an affidavit after being incarcerated, I can assure you that they do remember because they gained contact visits by doing so. Honesty is the best policy here. After all, marriage is a merger and marriage must be based on trust. Inmates DO REMEMBER having the ability to hand a contact visit. Ask any inmate how difficult obtaining contact visits is and you will quickly understand why this widespread abuse of CLM Affidavits actually exists to begin with. 
I have “other Officiants” contact me frequently because they have no idea how to solve their clients unexpected problems. It’s not my job to educate them however and I’m rather busy addressing clients from five businesses and venues I’m on staff with. Learning policy and procedure within every state I conduct marriages didn’t happen overnight. Knowing marriage law and understanding prison policy is the one thing that every prison wedding Officiant should know but they don’t. This isn’t a job that only requires you to show up. This is a job that requires you to be educated and informed. This is a job that warrants your time and attention to walk your client through a very confusing and frustrating process. This is a job that requires dedication and experience. I don’t have the time to train others on how to perform their job functions. If you have hired someone who shrugs their shoulders when you encounter a problem, you hired the wrong person. 
For those of you wondering if either you or the inmate are listed as CLM to anyone other than each other, you can contact inmate records and ask or contact the Courts in Huntsville. 
For those of you who believe “proving Common Law Marriage is easy” I hope you never have to stand before a probate judge and attempt to find out how difficult what you believed to be easy is. It isn’t. Informal Marriage Affidavits exist to prove a legal marriage occurred. They also require both parties present at the clerks office. Skipping any part of this requirement does not create a legally binding marriage I can assure you. Filing a CLM Affidavit with TDCJ creates a status but that status is limited to TDCJ and not recognized as legally binding outside of TDCJ. 
For those of you still believing that by signing a CLM Affidavit within TDCJ “created a legally binding marriage,” I’m including the Texas Marriage Verification link for you to check your “legally binding Common Law Marriage Status” yourself because I have neither the time or the patience to argue with someone who isn’t my client and who believes they know or much less understand family law or marriage law contacting me with uninformed information. 
If you believe you are legally married, don’t contact me, verify it yourself. I’m busy addressing my clients and their needs and have no time to debate with uninformed strangers…