I was married one month ago in Massachusetts, where I am not a resident, in order to bring my ceremony close to my father. My stepmother is a town clerk, and she offered to do our marriage license for us. After the ceremony, the officiant gave the only copy of the marriage certificate to my stepmother and did not keep a copy. After about ten days, I began asking what the process was to get our certificate back. She sent the original off to Vital Records to be filed, and told me "that it will be sent back when it is sent back", and refused to give me any timeframe for return (a week? a month?).
I let her and my father know I was disappointed in this answer, as we have some international travel planned, and my name has to be the same on the plane ticket as on my passport and visa, and I need to know how long it will take. Also, I am becoming a realtor this fall, and printing marketing materials, and it is important that my legal name is XXXXX XXXXX marketing materials because of the licensing requirements.
I called two town clerks in the region where I was married, as well as Vital Records in Massachusetts to find out more about the process. Each clerk said that they may hand a couple a copy of the marriage certificate as soon as they receive it back from the officiant, and the only wait would be if it needed to be mailed. Vital Records, where my certificate was sent from filing, said that we cannot pay them for a copy for three to six months.
My stepmother, after sending a nasty very personal email to me, eventually responded to one of my husband's emails, saying that she has deep legal concerns about releasing the marriage certificate to us without getting it back from Vital Records, with some kind of number attached to it. I confirmed with Vital Records that nothing gets sent back to the town clerk and the release of the marriage certificate is entirely up to the procedures adopted by the town clerk. The lady I spoke with offered to review everything and gave me her fax number, which we passed onto my stepmother, more than once, with zero response.
Eventually, I believe family pressure got to her, and she mailed a copy of the marriage certificate to us, with a very hastily scrawled address on the envelope, to the wrong name (addressing us both with my maiden name), with no return address. Inside, the certificate had the wrong birthday, and had an unsigned affidavit for the town clerk to sign at the bottom. I called Vital Records again, and was advised not to try to get the name changed on my passport with a wrong birthday. Vital Records asked that my stepmother file a Notice to Amend due to clerical error. The offer to review the situation was reiterated, and again ignored. In response to a couple of emails from my husband, she advised him that she was just going to write a new one and have the minister sign it again, to be mailed out on Monday. We have still received nothing.
The problem to me seems to be either blatant ignorance of procedure (for which she has a public duty to understand and implement) or malicious intent. I did read the Massachusetts Conflict of Interest
Law relating to public employees
, and there is a section about public employees being influenced in their capacity by outside parties. Also, though I can't get a straight answer on what the policy
of The Town of Alford, MA is it certainly seems as though this behavior does not fit a regional standard, and not being aware of filing procedures, as the town clerk, seems like negligence. Because my stepmother refuses to even tell us a timeframe when we will have it, it is impossible for us to plan travel or plan my new business, and its highly inconvenient.
My questions are:
Should we consider suing the Town? Could we sue the clerk individually, both for our marriage certificate and expenses relating to litigation
Should I file an ethics complaint?
Should I write to the town's selectmen?
If there are any more inconsistencies or clerical errors that prevent us from obtaining a usable marriage certificate, can we void what we have and have another tiny wedding in New York, where we reside, with a new officiant and a new certificate?