What is a Common Law Marriage?
A common law marriage, or informal marriage, is a legally binding union that occurs without the ceremony of a formal marriage. In the State of Texas, it is equal under law to a formal marriage.
What Are the Elements of a Common Law Marriage?
There are two sets of circumstances that make a common law marriage valid in the State of Texas. The parties must either sign and register a declaration of informal marriage on a form provided by the county clerk, or meet the following requirements:
- Both parties must agree to be married and live together as a married couple in the State of Texas;
- The couple must represent themselves to others as being married; and
- The couple must be over the age of eighteen (18) and not in a marriage with anyone else.
A couple can represent themselves to others as being married in several different ways, such as sharing finances or property together. Contrary to popular belief, there is no set amount of time that a couple must live together in order to make the common law marriage legitimate.
How Can I Prove my Common Law Marriage?
There are multiple different avenues to prove a common law marriage. Three of the most common examples would be owning real estate jointly, having a joint bank account, and filing joint tax returns. These actions tend to prove that the couple lived together in Texas and represented themselves to others as being married.
Divorce in a Common Law Marriage
Divorce in a common law marriage is the same as divorce in a formal marriage, with one notable exception. If one of the parties does not file for divorce within two years of their separation, then the State will presume that the marriage was never agreed upon by both parties. If the State deems the marriage valid, then the division of marital assets and liabilities will be the same as in a regular divorce.
For more information regarding common law marriage or other family law matters, please feel free to contact Paul Goetz of The Cox Law Firm at (817) 860-9200.