Judge Orders Couple To Get Married Or Face Jail Time

A couple in East Texas says a criminal court judge took away their choice to get married when they were ready, and strong-armed the couple into matrimony by threatening the unsuspecting groom with jail time.


fter an altercation with his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, which reportedly led to no serious injuries, a Texas Judge sentenced Josten Berry to marry his girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes, within 30 days of the hearing. His sentence also included writing bible verses and getting counseling.

“[The ex-boyfriend] had been saying disrespectful things about Elizabeth, so I challenged him to a fight,” said Bundy. “He stepped in and I felt like it was on and I hit him in the jaw twice.” Bundy says the ex-boyfriend pressed assault charges. “I took matters into my own hands and I know that’s wrong,” Bundy told reporters. “I know I was raised better, but it happened.“

The judge asked Bundy if he was married to Jaynes, before saying “You know, as a part of my probation, you’re going to have to marry her…within 30 days.” If Bundy declined the offer of probation, he would instead be sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Jaynes said the proposal from the judge was embarrassing to her. “My face was so red, people behind me were laughing,” she said. “He made me stand up in court.” Rather than risk Bundy losing his job while in jail, the couple decided to go through with the proposed probation. They applied for their marriage license and set a date with the justice of the peace to get married. “It just felt like we weren’t going to be able to have the wedding we wanted,” Jaynes said. “It was just going to be kind of pieced together, I didn’t even have a white dress.“

Josten Berry and Elizabeth Jaynes were ordered to get married by a Texas judge, or Berry would face 15 days in jail and a possible job loss.

Jaynes’ father, Kenneth, was angry with the judge for forcing the couple to marry. “[I felt] anger; I was mad. [The judge] can’t do this by court ordering somebody to be married,” He said. “I contacted a couple of lawyers but they told me someone was trying to pull my leg…that judges don’t court order somebody to get married.“

Bundy and Jaynes say they don’t regret getting married, but are disheartened that they weren’t able to make the occasion more special. They’re currently saving up to have another ceremony.

Creative approaches to marriage aren’t new, but many feel the judge did this couple a disservice. A thousand miles away in California, however, local legal experts are taking on another aspect of marriage, one newlyweds everywhere hope they’ll never face: divorce.

Far from the draconian ruling by the Texas judge, the Pasadena Collaborative Divorce workshop, run by the Pasadena Central Library, is looking to help divorcing couples “preserve respect—for oneself and one’s soon-to-be ex-spouse—during the ordeal of a divorce”. The workshop features a number of legal experts and family councilors as guests, including trained divorce coaches, child and co-parenting specialists, a Pasadena divorce lawyer, several financial professionals, and family law attorneys.

It’s all done in the name of making a difficult experience easier, and preserving mutual respect throughout the divorce proceedings. The experts explain divorce options, offer council to divorcing parents, and try to work with each couple individually.

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