Common law marriage refers to when two individuals represent themselves to others as married regardless of the legal formalities involved or whether or not there was an official ceremony or license issued to them for marriage. This can significantly impact property division, custody, and other aspects of a divorce process.
Texas laws permit couples who agree to have a common law marriage by living together as husband and wife and acting like it, such as presenting themselves to friends and family as married, using one last name, and working like they are husband and wife.
What is a common law marriage?
Texas recognizes common law marriage as a legal status that recognizes couples as married without going through the formal processes of having an official ceremony and receiving a marriage license. Common law marriage can bring couples many of the same advantages as traditional weddings, including property rights and inheritance rights. However, common-law marriage can create additional challenges regarding divorce or determining inheritance rights. One of the biggest difficulties couples encounter is proving they were married; this can be incredibly challenging without proof, such as signed contracts, joint bank accounts, or an agreement to marry later.
Texas requires three elements to establish that a couple is living together as husband and wife: 1) living together as husband and wife, (2) representing themselves to others as being married, and (3) making themselves out to be in an apparent state of marriage in front of others. Courts tend to examine each matter on its merit, with specific circumstances affecting how a decision will be rendered. However, general principles can guide a judge’s rule on these issues. Courts will assess whether both parties were living together as husband and wife by considering factors like whether each referred to the other as his/her “spouse,” wore wedding rings, shared household duties and expenses, etc.
Be mindful that there is no minimum period for living together to qualify as being in a common-law marriage; it only needs to appear that way to the public – such as presenting themselves on tax forms as married and giving each other credit cards while using titles like “husband” or “wife.”
One popular misconception is that simply by living together for an extended period, couples automatically become married under common law. Unfortunately, this is untrue, and to prove one exists in Texas requires filing a statement of informal marriage with the county clerk’s office.
How do I get a common-law marriage in Texas?
Many couples opt to live together and raise children without officially marrying in a traditional ceremony. This practice, known as common law marriage, carries with it all of the rights and responsibilities that accompany formal marriage; however, identifying whether or not someone is in such an arrangement requires an extensive investigation of the facts of each case, so consulting a Houston family law attorney experienced in Texas common law marriage can help make sure your rights are upheld and your interests protected.
Texas common law sets forth three essential criteria to qualify a couple as married: they must reside together as husband and wife – this does not simply mean sharing an address but instead acting like they’re husband and wife; additionally, couples must represent themselves publicly as married; this could involve wearing rings, filing taxes as married individuals, applying for loans jointly and other actions which convince the state that the couple is indeed husband and wife.
Couples can file a Declaration of Informal Marriage with the county clerk if the above criteria have been fulfilled. Although filing this will not give them access to any benefits or protections typically reserved for traditionally married couples, but serves as official proof that they are engaged in a common-law marriage relationship.
Once a common law marriage has been formed, it typically lasts until either party dies or they decide to end it legally by filing for a divorce or getting legally married in an official ceremony. To end a common law marriage legally, both partners must file for an annulment agreement as they would with a traditional wedding ceremony.
If a couple decides to separate, obtaining a divorce may be necessary to divide property and responsibilities fairly. At this stage, they must create an inventory of all assets they’ve amassed during their time together and determine which are community property versus individual assets – this can be particularly challenging if much time has passed since marriage began.
How do I get a divorce in a common-law marriage?
Many challenges can be associated with couples choosing not to formalize their union through traditional ceremonial marriage. Partners must decide where they will live, who will manage the household, how children will be raised, and how finances and debt will be handled. Over time most couples face the prospect of parting ways. Although legal divorce may be available, many are unaware that simple common-law divorce may also effectively end an informal union.
Texas recognizes common-law marriage as an accepted status for some purposes. However, this type of union differs from traditional ceremonial ones in that couples do not get licenses or participate in religious ceremonies to establish this partnership. Instead, this form of matrimony acknowledges that couples living together are considered married if they portray themselves as such to others and perceive themselves to be so.
Texas couples seeking to establish a common law marriage must fulfill three requirements. First, both parties must possess legal capacity – that means being 18 or over and of sound mind – before intending to marry each other and holding themselves out as married among friends, family, and the general public.
Common law marriage is only valid if all three conditions are fulfilled, with the burden of proof resting with those seeking a divorce. Once presented to the court, their evidence will be reviewed in detail before being evaluated in terms of how their behavior displayed to others was indicative of being married.
If you are considering entering into or dissolving an informal marriage in Texas, or seeking to do so legally, consulting a family law or divorce attorney may help protect your rights while keeping proceedings as painless as possible.
What are the advantages of a common-law marriage?
Some couples opt to live together without going through the formal process of a traditional wedding. Reasons can range from financial inability to pay for one to moral objection to marriage ceremonies. Although living together without legally marrying has advantages and disadvantages, both partners should recognize that such relationships do not guarantee rights in case of death or divorce.
One of the chief disadvantages of common law marriage is that unless validated by a court, property, and assets belong solely to one individual, which could create complications in case of disagreement, death, or when it comes time to divide assets and debts after divorce.
To avoid potential conflicts and legal complications, couples living together and claiming common law marriage should consult a family lawyer experienced with Texas laws on this topic for legal advice on their status and rights in case of divorce or death. A good family lawyer can help establish and protect this vital part of life.
Couples in a common law marriage who establish their status can receive the same benefits as traditional marriage. For instance, they can access Social Security benefits, file joint tax returns, and have shared credit cards and bank accounts.
At its core, the success of a common-law marriage depends on how couples handle finances and relationship matters. Being open and honest with one another is always recommended – whether couples choose traditional marriage or another form of relationship structure.
While some states require residency before legally recognizing couples as married, that’s not the case in Texas. A team must represent themselves to the public as husband and wife and present themselves as such to be considered legally married in Texas, according to Texas Law Help. Some couples take additional steps by signing a Declaration of Informal Marriage with their county clerk as validation; however, this step isn’t mandatory in Texas.