Texas is one of the states that recognize common law marriage. Also known as marriage without formalities or informal marriage, common law marriage is defined as when couples live together and present themselves to friends, family, and the community as ‘being married.’ However, they have never gone through a formal wedding ceremony and do not have a marriage license.
Common Law Marriage in Texas?
There are some myths about common law marriage. One of the most well-known myths is that if two people live together for a certain amount of time, often 7 years. The truth is it actually varies by state. For the state of Texas, there is no specific amount of time a couple must reside together before the common law marriage begins.
How to Establish a Texas Common Law Marriage
Several rules must be proven in order to be married under common law. First, you must be able to marry. Both people must be at least 18 years old, and neither can already be married. This is Texas law for both common law and traditional marriage.
These three rules must exist simultaneously to be proven a common law marriage in Texas:
- Both people agree to marry, and
- After the agreement, they live together in Texas as husband and wife, and
- They represent themselves to others as a married couple
Ways A Couple Can Represent Themselves to Be in a Common Law Marriage
As the above rules state, a couple must represent themselves as married. Besides simply introducing the person as your spouse, there are other ways to express yourself as married. Some examples include signing a lease or other documents as a married couple or taking their last name. Some couples also add a spouse to health insurance. You might also assign a spouse as a beneficiary on life insurance, or file joint tax returns.
These are examples only. It is best to speak with a Texas family law attorney to establish a valid Texas common law marriage.
Why You Want to Establish Yourself as a Common Law Marriage Couple
Taking your relationship a step further and becoming married has legal benefits. When one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse is eligible to inherit the property and assets. Without marriage, everything would go into probate court and perhaps be passed to someone else.
Tax breaks and other financial benefits accompany being married. Property division rights and inheritance rights apply as well. Also, if the relationship ends, the division of property and finances is carried out, including in some cases spousal support.
How to End a Common Law Marriage in Texas
While you can establish yourself in a common law marriage, you can not simply walk away from one and legally call it over. Separating and living in different homes does not mean your marriage is through. Under Texas law, your ex and yourself need to get legally divorced to end a common law marriage. Working with a Texas divorce attorney familiar with common law marriages will help make this difficult process a bit easier.
Under Texas law, all property acquired during the marriage is considered community property. It must be divided the same as if the couple was formally married. Also, all debts incurred during the common law marriage are divided between the spouses.
Working with a Texas Family Law Attorney
If you and your partner have split and were considered under Texas law as common law married. It would be best to file for divorce as soon as possible. If you and your partner are separated for more than 2 years and did not follow the law of common law marriage, it would then be assumed under Texas law that you were never married.
In situations where no common law marriage is proved (as with the rules above), there is no common property to divide. When unmarried couples split, each person will part with what they brought into the relationship and split what was accumulated during their time together.
Requesting a divorce and proving a Texas common law marriage is tricky. You need a Texas divorce attorney who understands the ins and outs of common law marriage.