Can You Claim Common Law Marriage in Texas?

May 17, 2019 Posted in Divorce

Although it sounds decidedly old-fashioned, common law marriage is alive and well and recognized in a few states, including Texas.

If you are not sure whether your relationship constitutes a common law marriage, your best course of action is to consult with a Dallas divorce attorney. The following provides some basic information to get you started in understanding how common law marriage is treated in Texas.

Establishing Informal Marriage in Texas

Texas law refers to common law marriage as "informal marriage," but it carries the same meaning.

Contrary to what many people think, there are no specific rules about the number of years a couple must cohabitate in order to be considered married under the common law. Rather, in assessing the nature of a relationship, a court will look for the presence of a number of factors and, at the end of the day, will decide based on the circumstances of the relationship.

A Texas court will consider:

  • Whether you maintain joint financial accounts, such as checking and savings account or credit cards
  • Whether you and your partner are of legal age and sound mind and are otherwise eligible to marry under the law
  • Whether either of you are already married to someone else
  • If you intend to be married.
  • How long you have lived together
  • Whether you hold yourselves out to the world as married, g., whether you refer to each other as husband and wife
  • Whether either of you took the other’s last name

While these factors are certainly not exhaustive or even requirements — you can certainly be married without sharing credit cards, for example — they help the court decide whether the circumstances of the relationship indicate that a marriage exists.  A Dallas divorce attorney can advise you further on your marital status under Texas law.

Dissolving a Common Law Marriage

When a couple dissolves a common law marriage, they face the same laws and hurdles that a traditional married couple faces. They must file for divorce and go through the same legal procedures if they want to end the marriage.

Further the same child support and child custody laws apply when the children are born to a couple considered to be married under the laws of informal marriage. The court will use the same statutory guidelines in deciding custody of the children as they will for children from formal marriages.

How a Dallas Divorce Attorney Can Help

In order to assert that you were bound to another by informal marriage, you will need to file an action for proof of marriage within two years of splitting up, or you will lose your right to assert that you were in an informal marriage.

If you are in a common law marriage in Texas and are contemplating divorce, we can help. Please call Michael P. Granata at 214-977-9050 or reach out to our offices online to schedule an appointment.