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What You Need to Know About Texas Common Law Marriage


You’ve probably heard of common law marriage before. A couple that claims to be married, but didn’t actually go to the court house, get a license, and have a marriage ceremony. Is it a real, legal marriage?

What is Common Law Marriage?

The legal definition of a common marriage varies from state to state and the corresponding confusion that revolves around it and what it defines. Here we will try to clarify this confusing concept.

While there are differences between formal and informal marriages, common law marriages are not exactly what you may have imagined. Differences established in a common law marriage include:

  • Common law marriages do not require the license that formal marriages require.
  • Common law marriages are not necessarily solemnized, while government or religious officials must perform formal marriages.
  • There is no public record of common law marriages, such as a marriage certificate.
  • There is a requirement of cohabitation, but meeting this requirement does not create a common law marriage. The couple must also be maintained and present themselves as married.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction, the couple must have cohabitated for a minimum period of time.

In addition, for a common law marriage to be recognized in Texas, there are a few more requirements:

  • A man and woman must agree to consider themselves married.
  • A couple must have cohabitated or lived together (staying overnight may be enough)
  • A couple must have presented themselves as married

Alternatively, a common-law marriage can be made official if the couple presents a sworn certificate of an informal marriage.

Formal Recognition of Common Marriage Law 

Texas recognizes and accepts common law marriage as the same as any other ceremonial marriage in the state. In case the couple wishes to formalize the marriage further, they can file a Marriage Statement. It is important to know that this type of marriage may not be recognized as valid in other states.

States that recognize common law marriages by the contract include Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

Ending a Common Law Marriage 

Dissolution of common law marriages should take place through a formal divorce. This is particularly advisable if the couple has children or if they acquired a substantial amount of property together because both parties are responsible for debts as well as child support. The court will help divide the assets and debts of the couple, as well as determine child support and custody just like they would in any other traditional marriage that is going through a divorce.

If the couple has a common law marriage in Texas but then moves to another state, they must obtain a divorce in the new state of residence to dissolve the marriage, even if that state does not recognize common law marriage.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today 

If you are common law married and have questions about the legality of it or how to go about dissolving the marriage, contact the Houston divorce attorneys at Lindamood & Robinson, P.C. today to schedule a consultation.




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