Dissolving Common Law Marriage is Still Divorce

March 29, 2017 Posted in Our Blog

Contrary to common myth, no Texas law declares that two people are married under common law (known as informal marriage) just because they live together for a specific number of years. Particularly if they have no children or contractual obligations pertaining to possessions, they can technically walk away when their relationships do not work out.

Still, the law cites the conditions that qualify under the definition of informal marriage. Couples that meet the requirements and want to go their separate ways must go through a formal divorce process,

The Requirements of Informal Marriage

When couples enter into informal marriage, they are subject to all laws that govern traditional formal marriages. While proving a formal marriage is usually as simple as producing a valid marriage certificate, couples generally prove the existence of an informal marriage by meeting the following conditions:

  • Creating a signed Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage that meets very specific phrasing and legal requirements
  • Establishing an agreement to marry, after which they live together while representing to others that they are married

While these conditions seem simple on the surface, the law includes a number of exceptions. For example, couples cannot be informally married if one or both parties are already married. Of course, Texas law prohibits marriage between certain close relatives, and minors also cannot enter into informal marriage when their marriage is prohibited by law.

It is also important to understand that informally married couples who move to states that do not recognize common law marriage face a different set of legal issues, depending upon the state of residence at the time of desired divorce.

Divorce From Informal Marriage Need Not be Overly-Complicated

Naturally, the complexity of divorce generally pertains more to the length of the relationship and what happened during the marriage. The label of formal versus informal has little bearing, if any, on the divorce outcome. However, any couple entering into divorce must establish the following basic terms:

  • Distribution of property
  • Child custody and support, if applicable
  • Spousal support under certain circumstances

The first step is to engage an experienced Dallas common law attorney for a legal opinion on whether a legal marriage exists — formal or informal. Even if divorce is the appropriate way to end the relationship, it does not need to involve a painful courtroom battle.

To learn about ways to negotiate effective agreements out of court, contact us.