Can You Marry In Prison?

Prison is one of the last places people imagine romance occurring; dating while behind bars is very difficult, so getting married while locked up may seem like an impossible task. The saying “love has no boundaries” comes into full effect when dealing with marriage in prison.

In this blog post, we will cover:

  • How to get married in prison
  • Can inmates marry each other?
  • Do prisoners get to have a wedding?
  • Can inmates get divorced while in prison?

How to get Married while in Prison.

Getting married in prison is possible and allowed. Every state has their own set of procedures for allowing marriage to take place, both in prison and out.

In the state of Michigan for example, the non-prisoner must contact the Chaplain within the prison via a letter, describing his/her intent to get married, as well as all of the information on the prisoner (such as the prisoners name and ID number). After the initial contact has been made by the non-prisoner, the inmate in question will be required to write a similar letter to the Chaplain. This letter should include the inmate’s intentions and motivations for getting married, as well as any information on the wedding the two wishes to have.

The next step, after making prison officials aware of the desire to get married, and after the marriage is approved, is to get a marriage license. The non-inmate usually obtains this marriage license from the prisoner’s counties clerk’s office. This is important, if the two getting married are from different counties and the marriage license is not from the inmate’s county, it will surely be voided.

Now comes the actual wedding. Weddings in prison occur when there is time in the schedule, the couple does not have absolute freedom to pick any date they choose. The couple is responsible for finding two witnesses and an officiant to clear their wedding, it is important to note that these people must be able to clear LEIN security standards in order to help with the wedding.

The restrictions on the ring exist as well. Rings may not cost over $75.00 and must not include any objects such as stones, diamonds, rubies, or pearls. The ring must be plain and smooth. This is simply for security and safety.

The policies and procedures just listed are for the State of Michigan. Other states may have different rules on how marrying in prison is to be conducted. In order to find this information for a specific state, visit their corrections website and search “marrying in prison”. This should provide the necessary information.

Can Inmates Marry Each other?

While it has been established that an inmate and a prisoner can get married, the question must be asked, “can inmates marry each other?”.

Although this question is a popular one to ask, it has no true, definite answer. Since inmates are separated by sex, the question of inmates marrying each other falls almost exclusively under the guise of gay marriage. Gay marriage in the United States is pretty new, it was legalized by President Obama in 2008 and ever since the legalization of gay marriage, it has been documented that gay relationships have increased dramatically (or the relationships have become public).

In most cases marriage between two inmates, it is a court by court decision whether two inmates are allowed to marry. Many legal experts argue that gay marriage is a civil right, and by not allowing two inmates to marry one another would impose and infringe on their rights.

In the United Kingdom, two men serving life sentences were lawfully married in 2015. Even though this event occurred outside of the United States, it did highlight how correctional facilities in other countries are choosing to go about gay marriage.

The lack of policies that constitute gay marriage in prison here in the United States can cause problems, that is why many states are now adapting policies for gay marriage. Arizona’s Department of Corrections for example put a same-sex marriage policy in place back in 2015.

Arizona does allow inmates to get married as long as their relationship does not pose and safety issues or does not disrupt the operation of the correctional facility.

Gay marriage in prisons is still being discussed on a state to state basis. The rules also differ based on the type of prison and the security level the inmate has.

Do Prisoners get to have a Wedding?

Prisoners are allowed to have a wedding in some cases. The wedding prisoners are allowed to have does not have anything special- no doves or bands, just the simple legal proceedings that are required to take place.

The inmate does not change clothing for the wedding, while the citizen may opt to wear whatever clothing they choose. It is typically only the two getting married and the officiant that are present at the wedding.

Prison weddings do not have a reception, they do not have food or refreshments, and they do not have entrainment. Prison weddings are as simple a wedding can be.

The rules of a prison wedding have some flexibility based on the type of prison and what level the prison belongs to. If the couple is getting married in a Federal maximum-security prison, the wedding will be as bare bones as possible.

This is done for safety and to follow preexisting procedures concerning guests and visitations. If the prison is at the State level and is low security, then there may been room for more flexibility. In some cases, inmates are able to bring multiple guests to the wedding ceremony, usually as a reward for good behavior. Nevertheless, how a prison wedding looks is entirely based on the institution and their policies.

So yes, prisoners can have a wedding, but it is not what people usually envision a wedding looking like.

Can Inmates get a Divorce?

Yes. Inmates can get a divorce. Inmates even have the ability to initiate a divorce from prison. Inmates are also allowed to, in some cases, leave prison to attend the divorce hearings. The alternative for an inmate who cannot leave prison is to attend the divorce hearing via phone or video call.

The other party in the relationship, the individual who is not behind bars, is able to start the proceedings for divorce as well. After the files have been processed and authorized, they are turned over to the inmate to sign and declare divorce as well.

A common thought that many holds is that if someone is trying to get a divorce from their spouse that is in prison, that the process is entirely free. This is false. The State does acknowledge that having your spouse being convicted of a crime and locked away in prison is a reasonable reason for filing for divorce but does not remove all fees and charges out of the process of getting a divorce.

Although getting a divorce is prison is not 100% free, there are a number of charges that may be dropped. The rate of these charges getting dropped varies case-by-case, but it is common to find one or two charges dropped from the divorce invoice.


Can a prisoner attend the birth of their child?

The answer to this question falls under a legal gray area- inmates do not have a right to visit the birth of their child, therefore institutions are able to deny the request are their discretion.

It is possible for a prisoner to attend the birth of their child though; typically, if the inmate has displayed signs of good behavior, they are able to attend. Another factor that is important to take into consideration is the crime committed by the inmate.

The severity of the crime can automatically dismiss any chance the inmate has of leaving the correctional facility. The type of institution the inmate is housed in also plays a role. If the inmate belongs to a maximum-security prison, the chances of allowing the inmate to leave the prison are slim to none.

Do prisoners lose custody of their children?

No. it is not possible for an inmate to lose custody of their children just because they are in jail/prison. An inmate may lose custody of their children if they have no contact with them for over six months. The court could view the lack of communication between the inmate and their children as abandonment.

The spouse is allowed to go to the courts to ask for full custody. The spouse may argue that because the inmate is locked away, that the inmate is showing neglect towards their children. Typically, if visitations have been documented between the inmate and their children, this argument loses ground, but if no documentation has been made, then the court may side with the spouse and revoke all parental rights from the inmate on ground of abandonment.

Thank You for reading. Do you want to get married? What does your dream wedding look like? Let us know in the comments below!


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