Are you in a committed relationship and wondering if you qualify for a common law marriage in Texas? Common law marriage, also known as informal marriage, is a legally recognized marriage in the state of Texas, granting the same rights and responsibilities as traditional marriages. However, establishing a common law marriage in Texas requires meeting specific criteria and providing adequate evidence.
In Texas, an informal or common law marriage is a valid marriage that is created without all the formalities of a ceremony or a marriage license. The easiest way to prove a common law marriage is by signing a Declaration of Informal Marriage. Once signed, the Declaration is proof of a valid marriage in Texas. However, if you did not sign a Declaration of Informal Marriage, you can still prove the existence of an informal marriage in Texas.
Legal Eligibility For Marriage in Texas
In order to qualify for a common law marriage in Texas, both parties must also be legally eligible for marriage in Texas. In order to meet the eligibility standards, the following must be true:
- Neither party is already married (formal or informal) to anyone else at the time the marriage was created
- Both parties must be 18 years or older
- Neither party is recently divorced (within 30 days)
- The parties are not too closely related
Meeting the Criteria for Common Law Marriage in Texas
If both parties meet legal eligibility for marriage, meeting all the criteria for a valid common law or informal marriage involves proving you and your alleged spouse:
- Agreed to be married;
- Represented to others in Texas you were married; and
- Lived together in Texas as spouses.
The informal marriage does not begin to exist until all three of the above elements are met at the same time. This means if you lived together for several years, but did not represent to others that you were married, you would not be married. Evidence of the couple’s representation to others that they were married can include statements made to third parties, using the last name of the other party, wearing wedding rings, posting on social media that you are married, filing joint tax returns, or executing other legal documents as married individuals.
Simply living together or having a long-term relationship doesn’t automatically qualify as a common law marriage. It must be clear that both partners intended to enter into a marital relationship. If you can demonstrate that you lived together in Texas as spouses and you and your alleged spouse represented to others in Texas that you were married, it can be presumed that you agreed to be married.
Living Together in Texas as Spouses
If both parties agreed to be married, they must also represent themselves to other Texans that they are married. There is a variety of measures a couple can take to build the case for their public declaration of marriage including but not limited to:
- Introducing one another as your spouse
- Using the same last name
- Referring to yourselves as a married couple on official documents like leases, insurance policies, or tax returns
- Demonstrating joint ownership of assets and debts
- Wearing wedding rings
- Social media posts, emails, letters, and other correspondence referring to each other as “wife” or “husband”
Benefits of Proving an Informal or Common Law Marriage in Texas
Once proven, informal marriages carry all the same rights as formal marriages in the state of Texas. This can be beneficial for a number of situations, especially when it comes to ending an informal marriage in Texas or in the event one spouse dies:
- Division of Assets
- Insurance and benefits
- Medical decisions
- Parental, custody and visitation rights
- Spousal and child support
- Legal protections for married couples
- Social security benefits
When Does a Common Law Marriage Need a Family Lawyer?
It is important to note that there is no informal divorce in Texas. If you satisfy the requirements for an informal marriage, a formal divorce is necessary. If you believe you may be informally married, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to discuss options and learn about your rights.
Informal marriage can be a complex issue, and it is best to consult with an experienced Texas family attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and you’re aware of all the legal implications of your relationship. If you believe you are in a common law marriage and you have questions or concerns about the legal implications of your relationship, contact an experienced family law attorney at Deyerle Silva Smith for guidance.