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Family and Criminal Law Blog

Friday, February 26, 2021

Do You Need a Divorce for a Common Law Marriage?

Did you know that you can have a common law marriage in Texas? It is true! There are, however, specific requirements for a common law marriage that must be met. If you and your partner have met the requirements for a common law marriage in Texas, you may, at some point or another, wonder whether you need to get a divorce for the marriage to end. We will talk more about that here.

Do You Need a Divorce for a Common Law Marriage?

There are two ways in Texas to establish a marriage. One is the formal way where you get a marriage license and have a marriage ceremony. The other way is the much more informal way of establishing a common law marriage. In order to establish a valid common law marriage in Texas, you and your partner must do three things. You must both agree to be married. You must also live together as a couple. There is no precise definition for what it means to live as a couple but it may be safe to say that this generally means cohabitating as if you were married. The third and final requirement to establish a common law marriage is that you and your partner hold yourselves out to the world as being married. In other words, you tell other people that you are married and introduce one another as a spouse. In addition to introducing your partner as your spouse, it can also involve doing things like signing credit applications as a married couple and other things that would lead people to believe that you were married.

Once these three requirements have been met, a common law marriage will have the very same legal effect as a more formal marriage that was established through executing a marriage license and having a marriage ceremony would. Because of this, you do need a divorce in order to end a common law marriage. Sometimes, there may be a paper trail of your common law marriage, such as if you applied for credit as a married couple, but, other times, there may be no official record that your common law marriage existed. In these situations, a person may be especially tempted to avoid going through any formal divorce proceedings and just try to walk away from the marriage as if it had never existed.

Walking away from a common law marriage and pretending it never existed instead of going through formal divorce proceedings to end the marriage, can be dangerous even without any official record of the marriage. There are still things like witness testimony that can establish the legitimacy of the marriage. Your spouse could go after you for things like alimony when you least expect it. Furthermore, there may be implications for your estate after you pass away if you fail to divorce your common law spouse. He or she could potentially make a claim against your estate as your spouse.

Divorce Attorneys

Whether you are in a common law marriage or a marriage resulting from more formal proceedings, the dedicated team of divorce attorneys at Navarrete & Schwartz will help make the divorce process as smooth as possible and always work to protect your best interests. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.


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Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C. is located in Midland, Texas and serves the surrounding cities and counties, including: Odessa in Ector County, Andrews County, Martin County, Howard County, Winkler County and Crane County.



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