I’m a good listener. In fact I do a lot of listening from one day to the next. My role is to listen first and give advice after understanding the issue. Yesterday I was calling Wayne Scott Unit for a scheduled time on 11-07 when a call from my Goree Unit Client came in. Buckle up buddies because it’s going to yet another bumpy ride…
My Goree client was buying a wedding ring and I advised her of the Administrative Directive that specifically forbids ring exchanges with inmates as a “heads up.” Luckily, she was buying the ring for herself. I had been playing phone tag with a Goree Unit trying to get her on the schedule. The Chaplain didn’t have the paperwork and my client couldn’t find her ring in the right size so she was asking me about the two week turnaround to get it sent out and returned and wondering if we would be scheduled prior to the ring being ready.
I advised her that I can “bump a date” from a Unit and if we came up on the schedule earlier than the ring coming in, I would move the date to coincide with her having the ring.
About an hour later while on hold with Ramsey Unit confirming 11-13-2019 for another client on my birthday, my Goree Unit client called me back. The inmate was listed as being Common Law Married to someone other than my client. This consistent problem is an effective “sucker punch.” Why inmates don’t disclose signing a CLM Affidavit or going into the system and proclaiming to be CLM I have no idea BUT this issue continues to pop up over and over and over again. So much so that I’ve created a Dissolution Agreement to overcome CLM issues.
For the record… inmates ALMOST ALWAYS say that they forgot about a CLM status. They didn’t. In fact, the reason they signed or claimed to be CLM was solely to obtain a contact visit.
TDCJ doesn’t conveniently change an inmates status to clear the way for their inmate marriage either.
In fact, TDCJ suggests a divorce but how do you file a divorce for a marriage that didn’t follow state guidelines to make the marriage legal when the CLM Affidavit was never filed at the clerks office and was instead within TDCJ? Short answer? You don’t. You cannot file a divorce for a marriage that didn’t happen.
Let’s review the Texas Informal Marriage filing requirements… both parties must be present. Both parties must fill out the application. Both parties must pay the fee for an Informal Marriage License. Both parties must swear out an oath. There are no shortcuts to an Informal Marriage filing. There are no Absentee Affidavits. There are no absent parties. TDCJ does not file this document with the clerks office on behalf of the inmate and they can’t. Why? Because ONLY BOTH PARTIES CAN FILE AN INFORMAL MARRIAGE LICENSE in person.
Over the years, this CLM issue has come up so many times that I now expect it. Creating a notary required form to dissolve this union traditionally works but certain Units also require a marriage verification letter or divorce verification letter. What is it and how can you find it? Here’s the link- Texas Vital Records Marriage Or Divorce Verification Letter.
Why would you need both? Because TDCJ Units especially Private Units make their own rules.
Now, overcoming a CLM issue is time consuming, frustrating and emotional for ANYONE that didn’t expect such a surprise. Stay calm. This hurdle can be overcome and it has for my clients. In fact, my Coffield Unit client who was scheduled to marry last Tuesday but couldn’t because the inmate caught a chain is one of many who has overcome a CLM issue with my help. EXPERIENCE MATTERS.
My Wallace Unit client overcame a CLM issue (with the help of the Courts) because the inmate was 17 when he claimed CLM status and effectively underage. TDCJ changed the status back to Single but only after the Courts interacted on my clients behalf. I.E. the inmates status wasn’t changed without interaction and assistance.
Next week at Allred Unit I’m marrying 3 clients one of which was a transfer from Coffield who overcame the “sticky CLM issue.”
Stay calm and we will work through the process…