Can You Get Married While You're in Prison?

Can You Get Married While You’re in Prison?

Yes. You can get married while you are in prison. In fact, there are very few restrictions.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have a fundamental right to marry in 1987 in a case called Turner v. Safley. That is true even in prison.

Your facility’s warden must approve of your request to marry. And there are only a few restrictions. First, you must both be eligible to get married. Second, the warden can deny your request if your marriage poses a threat to security.

How you get married in prison?

Just like getting married outside of prison, getting married in prison takes paperwork. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a few steps you need to take before you can prepare for a ceremony. Those steps include the following:

Submit a Request to Marry

Your facility has forms you must use to submit a request to marry. Fill out this form and deliver it to the correct official. 

Determine Your Eligibility

After you submit your request, prison officials will see if you are eligible for marriage. They will look to see if you are already married or have a common-law marriage before you came to prison.

Determine Your Mental Fitness

Once authorities determine your eligibility, they look at your mental competence. They will not perform an exam. Instead, they will check your records. They want to make sure you understand what you are doing.

Contact Your Future Spouse

After determining your eligibility and fitness, someone will contract the person you want to marry. They will verify that that person wants to marry you. Then they can tell this person the public information from your file.

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Image courtesy of MyImages_Micha at iStock Photos.

Make a Safety Determination

The final step is making sure your marriage doesn’t pose a threat to the facility or to the people in it. Your unit team will discuss this with the Captain and make a decision.

Notify You and Plan the Ceremony

Once the prison system reaches a decision, they will notify you. If they deny your request, they must tell you why. They will put a copy of this notification in your central file. Once officials approve your marriage, you can plan your ceremony.

Where can you have a wedding ceremony if you’re in prison?

Because you are in prison, there are some limitations on where and how you can have your ceremony.

The first limitation has to do with money. The prison cannot use its funding for your wedding or marriage. That means you or your spouse are responsible for paying all the costs. That includes things like a marriage license.

Another limitation has to do with location. If you are eligible for furlough, you can put in a furlough request for your wedding. In that case, you can get married outside of the prison.

If you are not eligible for furlough, you must have your wedding in your facility. As long as your ceremony doesn’t pose a threat to security, your warden should approve.

A third limitation involves who can perform the ceremony. You can request the BOP chaplain, community clergy or a justice of the peace to hold your ceremony.

The Takeaway:

If you want to get married while in prison, you can. As long as you and your partner are eligible to marry, you shouldn’t face any problems.

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