Over a month ago, my client had called regarding a denial on her I60 because she was listed as Common Law Married on TDCJ records. The problem with this particular denial on the I60 was that the Warden was unaware that the new policy and updated Administrative Directive Pertaining To Inmate Marriage allows even a CLM status inmate the right to a legal wedding ceremony. The hitch? Only the same person that they are listed as being Common Law Married to in inmate records QUALIFY to legally marry in a Texas Prison. The name of the parties MUST MATCH the name listed as CLM in inmate records. Tricky right? It’s confusing too. However, understanding the actual reason for the Denial on an I60 is key to either correcting the issue OR overcoming it.
The inmate CANNOT marry someone else while listed as CLM to someone else. It’s a mess but so many people have filed this CLM affidavit it would literally make your head swim. All of them thought “they were just signing a piece of paper.”
“A CLM to someone else situation” requires far more undoing. A corrective Affidavit is where you will start the unraveling process with inmate records. I can’t begin to tell you how many times a crying and hysterical client has called me about a denial for marriage based entirely on a CLM status filed by the inmate to “someone else” years ago. It’s actually a regular occurrence. Daily, Weekly, Monthly.
However, if an inmate is “claiming they don’t recall filing this document” they are lying. They also filed this document in order to obtain contact visits with “the other woman.”
For those assuming this issue only happens with female clients, it doesn’t. In fact, two years ago, my Crain Unit client called me days before an Approved ceremony to tell me “the Warden changed the approved date and denied the wedding ceremony. I’ve already paid for travel and everything.” I asked “why?” As usual. The shocking answer was a jolt since we had already gone through the I60 process for 7 weeks and had a date at the Unit to marry. My client further explained this weird turn of events to me by saying ” apparently my fiancée had listed herself as CLM to another inmate prior to her own incarceration.” WOW. This hasn’t happened before but my client was older and didn’t “want any trouble. I just want to get married.” The solution? Due to my client living in North Carolina and his fiancée being paroled within a few months, I met them at the Walls Unit and married them in Huntsville. Problem solved.
This particular I60 denial at LeBlanc “because the couple were already listed as CLM” was “completely new to me.” I had yet to encounter such a denial with similar circumstances for any other client “because the couple were already listed as CLM and therefore considered married to each other.” The problem of my client and her fiancé BEING NOT LEGALLY MARRIED was obviously frustrating to my client who had called me while on location with my other clients at Main Event. I went outside to take her call and assure her that I would do everything within my power to get her married.
My first “job duty” would be to further research the Administrative Directive Pertaining To Inmate Marriage AGAIN since I had not noticed anything regarding being listed as CLM to each other being a reason to deny the I60 Request For Inmate Marriage at a TDCJ Facility.
Knowing the procedures and policies within TDCJ is a very important asset for me especially when overcoming an obstacle such as a denial to the I60 based on the sole reason that “TDCJ inmate records already listed the couple as common law married.”
As shocking as this may sound, my first encounter with this “already CLM status and therefore not authorized to marry” TDCJ issue impeding the approval on an I60 would actually occur again at Gib Lewis Unit less than a month later. True story. What the?
A CLM status within TDCJ is not a legally recognized marriage by the state of Texas. I also contacted Access To Courts after a lengthy conversation with the Chaplain at LeBlanc explaining this unique situation. The Chaplain was argumentative. I don’t argue. I don’t have time to argue.
Thankfully, the previous I60 Denial “based on an existing CLM status” was changed by the Warden to an Approval status and the wedding date was scheduled within a week.
I don’t give up easily as all my clients know and Larissa was thrilled to meet Cindy and I at LeBlanc on wedding day.
When your job during the week is to officiate inmate weddings at Prisons, “your job” requires knowledge and conflict resolution as well. Education is paramount in the Prison wedding planning process.
Occasionally, one of my clients will call me so upset that I’m forced to calm them down before fully comprehending the situation.
Now and then, I’ve also talked a few clients out of marrying based on their feelings of being “pressured into marrying an inmate.” I listen far more than anyone realizes.
Listening also is the real “key” to none of my Prison clients divorcing to date. I know many of you “have heard” all inmate weddings end in divorce. They don’t. I prefer to talk someone out of marrying an inmate than to have them go through with a wedding and subsequent divorce “down the road.”
Planning a Prison wedding is a very lengthy process. You are going to be jumping through hoops and relying heavily on me to make it happen. This isn’t something anyone goes into with their eyes wide shut. This is something only someone determined to marry would even consider doing I can assure you.
My clients call me often about unexpected issues they face in their marriage after marrying QUITE frequently. Remember, I’m everyone’s mother.
This week my Bridgeport Unit bride told me she was considering a divorce. Alarmed, I asked “why?” Apparently, the inmate hadn’t made parole. Also, the inmate wasn’t valuing the sacrifices his new bride was making in order to accommodate his needs. My clients do time too. The time they do is “ON the outside by pulling their wagon alone.”
After advising my Bridgeport client about how to address and explain her feelings to the inmate “who had assumed that her working two jobs in order to put money on his books and pay for expensive phone calls or even drive several hours and rent a hotel to visit” was exasperating, lonely and expensive, I told her to point out these sacrifices made solely for his benefit. Communication is key to conflict resolution.
My clients always call me when there’s a problem and even when there isn’t just to catch up. My clients are my friends.
What many people don’t know is that my allegiance is to my client at all times. My relationship and friendship is with my clients. It’s a confusing discussion to others who assume the inmate is my client. They aren’t. The person in the free world is.
I’m asked questions frequently about my job. What you are hiring when you hire me is a “go to gal.” Whether the clerk is giving your client a hard time or the Unit is denying your I60 or even if the inmate is listed as CLM to someone other than you or even you in this particular clients situation, listed as CLM to you, you need someone educated about TDCJ policy and procedure. You need someone reliable you can count on to address your concerns and “that someone” is me.
Many wonder why and even how “I know so much about the process?” The answer is that I’ve spent years learning, comprehending and understanding the policy and procedure process within any state I conduct and officiate inmate weddings.
Arriving at LeBlanc Unit, I parked beside Larissa and her aunt. I love it when my clients bring friends and family to join them in their photo shoot after the ceremony.
Guests aren’t allowed at most Unit Weddings in Texas with Sanders Estes being the exception. I know many other states allow guests but, we always follow procedure and policy. The Warden has the final say on guests and unless the Warden allows guests, they cannot attend your ceremony. Media is a special exception to the guest rule. Media must be authorized to enter the Unit and follow protocol.
While waiting in the lobby on Larissas soon to be husband to be escorted into the visitation area, Larissa and I attempted to dry off as a downpour hit just as we were entering the Unit. Luckily, I had packed two multi color umbrellas “just in case.”The bride and groom had incorporated the Vows of Ruth into their ceremony and I loved their creative input.
Incorporating elements into your ceremony keeps it fresh and unique. The couple were thrilled to finally make it to wedding day after the hurdles of getting approved. I was (as usual) thrilled for them. Wedding Day regardless of where it takes place is a Life Event.
Larissa had contacted me about the Beaumont Botanic Gardens near the unit and asked if we could do her bridal photos there. I loved the idea and Cindy captured some really great shots with Larissa and her aunt.
If you’ve seen an amazing location for your bridal or groom photos, just let me know. Cindy and I will follow you there after the wedding. We love new places and backdrops.I’ve added several veils to our rolling inventory to keep photo shoots fun and loved the photo Cindy took of Larissa in my latest addition to our inventory. Cindy’s fascinators are always a hit with clients. We had a great day in Beaumont with two great ladies before hitting the road back to Fort Worth.
Yesterday, I took a call from my Ellis Unit bride, Naquitia about needing photos for her twin daughter’s fourth birthday. Of course we were all in. Cindy and I headed over to meet Naquitia and the twins before driving to Deep Ellum for the photo shoot. I can’t wait to finally marry Naquitia at Ellis and for all my Ellis Unit clients waiting on dates, my Holliday Unit bride, Leantrinette found a great photo location in Huntsville that you are going to love. Check it out on my FB Page, Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham.
Oddly enough, I had an early morning phone call from my Gib Lewis Unit client crying because her I60 was denied. The situation was remarkably similar to Larissa at LeBlanc Unit. EXPERIENCE MATTERS. I solved “the I60 Denial” and remarkably “similar issue” at Gib Lewis Unit and will be marrying my clients August 14, 2019. My job isn’t to simply show up and conduct a ceremony. My job is to solve problems, address concerns, alleviate confusion and walk clients through the very difficult and time consuming task of marrying an inmate.
Sunday evening, my team is meeting Leantrinette, my TDCJ Holliday Unit client in Dallas for a surprise birthday party for her mom. Cindy and I will be handling party planning and photography for Leantrinette and her family.
I’m at Hobby Unit tomorrow with my beautiful brides and really looking forward to meeting everyone. It’s another busy weekend rolling up on us and we hope all of our clients and families are staying cool in this Texas heat.
A few of you have contacted me about being out of town because Cindy and I travel so much to other states. Have no fear dear friends as Wendy and Cindy regularly fly back and forth out of DFW or Meacham Field and can easily be back in Fort Worth within 48 hours. It’s not uncommon for me to travel to Oklahoma or Arkansas and even Louisiana or California within the same week. Cindy and I are seasoned destination event specialists who can be in one state one day and yet another state within 24 hours.
The Texas Twins Travel and from California to Texas or Texas to California, its all in a days work so no worries. We are here when you need us…