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Common-Law Marriages in Texas 19


What is Common-Law Marriage?

In states like Texas, Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, Common-Law Marriages are recognized.

Basically, you are in a Common-Law Marriage if you and your partner are cohabiting as husband and wife. In this situation, even if you both have the legal capacity to marry (e.g. of legal age, no legal impediments to marry), you didn’t marry each other by going through any form of solemnization or ceremony.

When a State recognizes Common-Law Marriages, it treats unmarried couples who are cohabiting as husband and wife similarly as those lawfully wedded couples. Rights and obligations between unmarried couples also arise.

There are many Texans who are not aware of the statutory requirements of a Common-Law Marriage.

“Am I married?” seems like an absurd question in a State that does not recognize Common-Law Marriages. However, in Texas, you can’t be so sure.

I have encountered people who were sued for divorce even if they were never married. One might ask, “How does a man with no wife get sued for divorce?”

Have you and your partner lived together? Have you purchased a real estate property together? Have you introduced each other as being husband and wife at least once in any occasion? Have you filed taxes together? Do you have children together? Then you might be informally married. You do not need a marriage ceremony to be considered as husband and wife under Texas law. When in doubt, it is best to talk to a lawyer to know your status for sure.

I also know of a man who was already divorced but after the divorce, he cohabited with his ex-wife. He supported his ex-wife and added her to his insurance policy who she greatly benefitted from. The ex-wife filed another divorce. The man thought it was foolish because as far as he was concerned, they were already divorced. He later found out that the state of Texas considered them as husband and wife again, this time as Common-Law Marriage spouses. The second divorce filed by his ex wife, therefore, is valid.

 

What is a Declaration of Informal Marriage?

This is a document that you and your partner can file in the county clerk. It will serve as prima facie evidence that you’ve entered into an informal marriage. You can also choose the date of marriage.

It may take just one instance to make you a married man or woman. Say, you filed an affidavit of informal marriage just once, that’s actually enough to be informally married with someone.

 

In case of doubt as to the status or relationship of persons, there will be a hearing. For example, if you allege that you are in a Common-Law Marriage with someone, you need to present evidence in a proper trial in court. Evidence must show that parties intended to have a present, immediate, and permanent marital relationship. Documentary evidence is not the only proof accepted in court. Your actions and your partner’s can be used to prove whether or not there is marriage. There must be a clear showing that both parties maintained a household jointly. There is no minimum period of cohabitation.

Another important thing to prove to court is that the relationship must be open and public. In other words, there can be no secret Common-Law Marriage.

 

Is there a Common-Law Divorce?

No, there is no such thing. It’s just divorce, like that of a formal marriage. Common-Law Marriages can only be terminated through divorce, annulment, or death.

 

You may be in a situation where you want to prove or disprove a Common-Law Marriage. It is important that you ask a lawyer to find out for sure what your status is and what you should do going forward.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at attorney@okohlaw.us

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