Common law marriage and divorce in Texas

When, for all intents and purposes, a couple appears to be married, despite never having a wedding, they are likely informally married. There are statutory elements determining the existence of a common law marriage. People in common law marriages have the rights of married people and when they want to divorce, the traditional divorce laws apply.

Many years before church and government started requiring ceremonial and registered marriages, communities witnessed and proved the formation of marriages through gatherings of people and celebrations of marriage ceremonies and customs. Texas is one of several states that continues the tradition of common law marriage, also referred to as informal marriage. When, for all intents and purposes, a couple appears to be married, despite never having a wedding, they are likely informally married. There are statutory elements determining the existence of a common law marriage. People in common law marriages have the rights of married people and when they want to divorce, the traditional divorce laws apply.

What does Texas law say about common law marriages?

Title 1 of Texas Family Code is the law determining marriage relationships. The subchapter defining marriages without formalities states that in a judicial proceeding, the marriage may be proved by establishing as true, certain elements of marriage. The couple must have agreed to be married and after that agreement, they lived together in the State of Texas and represented themselves to others as married.

The law also allows an informal marriage to be recognized when the spouses complete a Declaration of Marriage document and file it with the Court.

Can anyone be common law married? Texas law only allows people to be considered married in an informal marriage when they are over the age of 18, not related to one another as per Texas law , and not already legally married to another person already.

Common questions for people in informal marriages

Will my common law marriage be recognized in another state? This is not always an easily answered question because states have different laws and an informal marriage recognized in Texas may not be recognized in another state. Issues involving children also come up among people looking for information about common law marriages and rights. In Texas, you are not in a common law marriage simply by having children, the primary elements of the common law marriage must be present.

Spouses in common law marriages have parental and property rights. Once a valid informal marriage exists, so do the rights of the spouses to their children and property, just as if they had marriage license, formal ceremony and registered the marriage with the county clerk.

Common law married people might wonder whether they have protection under the family violence laws. Absolutely, if you are in a common law marriage and are being threatened, you may obtain a protective order against your spouse.

Obtaining a divorce from a common law spouse

A common law divorce is no different from the divorce process for everyone else, but for one extra step, proving the existence of the common law marriage. If the couple filed a Declaration of Marriage, that documentation proves the existence of the marriage. Alternatively, the couple would prove the informal marriage by presenting evidence of their agreement to be married, the nature of their marriage relationship as married. Evidence of the informal marriage may also be documented in shared legal obligations, such as leases and utilities including the names are both spouses as married.

If you have questions about informal marriages in Texas or other states, contact Scroggins Family Law.

Dallas, Collin and Denton County Board Certified divorce and family law attorney, Mark Scroggins, along with their team at Scroggins Family Law represent clients in a variety of divorce and family law matters.

At Scroggins Family Law, our Dallas, Collin and Denton County divorce attorneys have more than over 24 years of collective experience with family law cases. When you retain our firm, you can trust that your case is in the hands of a highly skilled, dedicated professional. we understand the unique challenges of a high value divorce case, and more importantly, have the knowledge and experience you need on your side. Call us today, (214) 469-3100, to learn more about Texas divorce and family law.

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Texas Family Code Section 2.401, Proof of Informal Marriage

Texas Family Code Section 6.201, Consanguinity

Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Why Choose Board Certified?