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Does Texas recognize common law marriage?

More Americans today are electing to cohabitate before or as an alternative to getting married. When a long term cohabiting couple splits, it can raise issues quite similar to divorce. After all, these couples may own property together, have children, and intermix their assets. In some states, long term cohabitating couples are deemed married and can seek a divorce just like a married couple. Other states refuse to recognize so-called common law marriages. Our Texas divorce lawyers explore common law marriage in the state below.

Texas Recognizes Common Law Marriage

Texas is one of the 11 states that does recognize common law marriage.  Under the Texas Family Code, common law marriage, referred to as informal marriage or marriage without formalities, can be established in one of two ways:

  • By agreement: Couples can file a “Declaration of Informal Marriage” in Texas. The process is quite similar to a traditional marriage but lacks the wedding ceremony. The couple will both complete the document and have it affirmed in the presence of the County Clerk.

  • Through evidence: Alternatively, to be considered common law married, a couple must demonstrate the following: a) they agreed to be married; b) after the agreement, they cohabitated in Texas; and c) the couple represented to others that they were married.

Additionally, the partners must be over the age of 18 and not be married to anyone else at the time the common law marriage was created.  Once proven, the common law marriage will be recognized just like a regular marriage.

Common Law Divorce in Texas

There is not a specific provision for a common law divorce. Rather, a common law marriage that is legally recognized must be dissolved just like a traditional marriage. Dissolution options for a common law marriage can include a formal annulment or divorce proceedings. However, if the couple ends their relationship and neither partner starts proceedings to prove the relationship within two years, then the court will presume the couple was never informally married.

If you are in a common law marriage and want to dissolve the marriage, you should consult with a divorce attorney as any other married couple would. Common law divorces come with the additional challenge of proving the marriage. You will need the help of an experienced divorce attorney to initiate divorce proceedings so that your legal rights are protected to the fullest extent. Contact Navarrete & Schwartz to schedule a consultation.