Common Law Marriage in Texas Overview
Every day, more and more people across the country decide to live together without going through a traditional marriage ceremony. If you are in this situation, you may at some point wonder, Does Texas have common law marriage?
If you’re in this situation, it can have some unintended and sometimes serious consequences if you do not understand your state’s marriage laws.
The answer is yes, Texas is one of a handful of states that recognizes common law marriage. Other states that currently allow this type of marriage include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah, and the District of Columbia.
But what constitutes common law marriage in Texas, and how does it differ from traditional marriages? And perhaps more importantly, how do you know if your common law marriage is recognized in Texas?
Requirements for Common Law Marriage in Texas
Common law marriage is essentially an informal marriage. For instance, suppose Sue and Jack never went to the trouble of getting a marriage certificate or having an official ceremony. But they have been living together for years and “acting” like husband and wife. Is this a common law marriage?
Well, the answer depends on the facts.
The Texas common law marriage statute states that three things are necessary to establish a common law marriage:
- The couple agrees to be married;
- The couple has agreed to live together as husband and wife; and
- The couple has held themselves out to others as being married.
Please note that the rules do not require a couple to live together for a specific period of time before the law recognizes the union as a common law marriage.
However, both parties must also be over 18 years of age regardless of parental permission. They must also be unrelated and not currently married to anyone else.
Why Is It Important to Know if Your Common Law Marriage Is Recognized in Texas?
It is important to know if you are in a common law marriage because there are certain rights, responsibilities, and repercussions attached.
For instance, if you are married, formally or informally, and decide to separate, you must go through a divorce.
The court then distributes your assets and debts exactly the same way as it would for traditionally married couples. Your marital status also affects inheritance rights.
Here are some other rights related to both formal and informal marriages in Texas:
- Eligibility for health insurance, social security benefits, and other employer-related benefits;
- Marital tax deductions and exemptions;
- Hospital visitation rights, and the right to make medical decisions for each other;
- Child custody rights;
- Eligibility for spousal support; and
- Rights to property and other assets.
These are just some of the reasons why it is important to know if your common law marriage is recognized in Texas.
How Do I Prove Common Law Marriage?
Introducing your partner as your spouse once may not immediately create a common law marriage. Instead, courts look more to the totality of the circumstances to make this determination.
So for instance, if you and your partner do any of the following, it could contribute to a judge deciding that you have formed a common law marriage:
- Live together;
- Tell others that you are married;
- Introduce one another as husband and wife to others;
- Use your partner’s last name;
- File your taxes as spouses jointly or singly;
- Sign leases or other documents as spouses;
- Make your partner a beneficiary in wills or on life insurance policies;
- Buy a house or other significant item together;
- Take out loans jointly;
- Apply for insurance or public aid and list one another as spouses; or
- Have children together.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you some indication of what a court looks at when making this determination. And keep in mind that no one factor is determinative.
The court will likely look at several factors to ascertain the intention of the parties. Also, please note that same-sex couples receive the exact same treatment as heterosexual couples involving issues of common law marriage.
Contact a Family Law Attorney About Common Law Marriage
When it comes to common law marriage, your intentions matter. If you do not wish to be married and are afraid that a judge could rule that you are in a common law marriage somewhere down the road, contact the lawyers at the Larson Law Office.
We have years of experience helping people just like you. We can draft a cohabitation agreement that expressly disavows common law marriage so you never have to worry about your assets.
Conversely, if you do wish your common law marriage to be recognized, we can help with that as well. We are a small, family-owned firm that prides itself in personal client service.
Call us today or contact us online to schedule your initial consultation with one of our lawyers. We look forward to serving you.