The Investigators

Aug 2, 2012 2:00 AM

No license, no marriage: A bride's legal battle

TUCSON - We are in wedding season now. And if you're a bride or know one here is something critical to remember.

Along with the flowers and dresses and trappings that come with getting married, there is one legal detail that is more important than all of that. It came back to haunt one bride at the most tragic time of her life.

Leslie Otero married her sweetheart, Travis, an elite Army soldier just over a year ago.

"I definitely believe that he was my soul mate," says Leslie

Their ceremony took place at Reflections in the Buttes in Oro Valley. But two short months after the wedding Travis took his own life.

"I think back and I'm still kind of overcome with those emotions, they still come very easily."

Still dealing with sorrow, Leslie contacted the Army to start receiving survivor benefits for herself and her two children. But she was stunned when the Army declined benefits because she had no legal marriage license.

By law couples have to get a marriage license from the county clerk, sign it and have the minister performing the wedding file it here within 30 days of the marriage.

Leslie says Reflections told her all she needed on her wedding day was their signed contract and they would help her with the legal document later.

Reflections says Leslie told them she had the license but she failed to get it to them within the legal deadline. Even worse Travis had never signed the license.

"Why there was a period of time?" asks Rev. John Fazio with Reflections. "Such a long period of time where they did not submit the license to me for execution? I don't know.
I can't tell you that. All I can tell you is that I can't file something I don't have."

Rev. Fazio says he goes over the license requirement with every couple.

"The fact that this is the first time in 3,000 weddings that this has occurred, clearly our procedure works."

Leslie ultimately had to hire an attorney to help prove to the Army that she and Travis were legally married. She's now suing reflections for her legal troubles.

"I mean I think it's so much that I've had to take care of, the paperwork, the lawyers, dealing with things with the Army," explains Leslie. "I really haven't had a chance to grieve until now."
Leslie and her attorney eventually received a validate marriage license from Pima County so she is receiving military benefits now.

But she's also seeking $50,000 from Reflections for breach of contract and negligence. Reflections filed a motion to dismiss the case.

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