Many couples prefer to avoid jumping through the hoops of a formal wedding ceremony. Nevertheless, if they want to take advantage of specific benefits, such as inheritance rights, they must prove their common law marriage exists.
Common-law marriage is a legal marriage recognized by Texas. Nevertheless, how do you go about proving it?
Present Agreement to Marry
People build families in many different ways. Some couples are married and have children, while others live together without ever tying the knot. The legal status of these relationships is vital if there is a chance of divorce or other family law issues in the future.
There are three requirements for a common-law marriage under Texas law: the couple must have a present agreement to marry, live together, and hold themselves out to be husband and wife. Unfortunately, much needs to be clarified about these requirements. For example, some couples assume that their time living together equates to common-law marriage in Texas. However, this is different.
No minimum time must pass before a common-law marriage considers a pair. What is more important is that the two individuals agree that they are married and living as a married couple. It can be proven in various ways, including referencing each other as spouses, filing joint tax returns or bank accounts, sharing household expenses and assets, and representing themselves as married pair.
In addition to the requirements listed above, all states have general requirements for marriage. Most require that both parties are at least 18, and some allow a younger age with parental consent. All states also prohibit marriage between close relatives (incest) and the simultaneous marriage of more than one person at a time (bigamy). If you are still determining whether or not you are in a common-law marriage, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney. It is crucial if you plan on splitting up, as you may need to file for a divorce.
In Texas, there is no minimum amount of time that a couple must live together to be considered common law married. However, the requirement to live together as husband and wife means more than having sexual relations under the same roof. It also requires that they share a household and do things associated with being married, such as putting both names on the title to a property, sharing expenses, and jointly signing for credit cards, utilities, and insurance policies.
In addition, the couple must represent themselves to others as being married. It could be as simple as introducing one another as “husband” and “wife,” or it may involve more formal methods of representation such as filing tax returns or social security benefits under the spouse’s name or listing each other as the spouse on health care, life, and pension policies. Testimony from friends, family members, and coworkers can also be helpful when it comes to establishing the existence of a common-law marriage.
If a couple wants to end their common-law marriage, they must go through the divorce process like any other married couple. Even though Texas recognizes informal common-law marriages, they do not come with a typical marriage certificate or any other official documentation from any government agency.
In some situations, when settling legal disputes over property division, alimony, and other issues, the question of whether a couple was common law married can be essential. In these cases, it is typically best to seek legal advice from a family law firm with experience in this law area. A Dallas divorce lawyer familiar with this type of legal dispute can help clients determine whether a common-law marriage is valid and how that might affect their case.
Holding Out to Be Married
Many people wonder if Texas recognizes common law marriage, allowing a couple to be treated as married without participating in a formal ceremony. Whether or not a couple is recognized as common law marriage may have consequences on the couple’s rights, including the ability to get death benefits such as an inheritance.
There are three elements that a couple must have to establish a common law marriage in Texas: (1) they must agree to be married; (2) they must live together; and (3) they must hold themselves out to the community as being married. The first and third elements are relatively easy to satisfy. However, the second element can be challenging to prove. Often, a judge will require that the couple offer evidence showing that they held themselves out to be married in various situations.
The most crucial part is that they must present themselves to the public as being married. It might be shown through things like submitting affidavits from friends and family members who testify that the couple told them they were married, or it might be evidence of statements made in the presence of a jury. The judge will look for consistency in the couple’s statements and actions and want to see that they represent themselves as married throughout the relationship.
There is no set amount of time a couple must spend living together to be considered common law married in Texas. However, if a couple wants to make it easier for a court to recognize their common law marriage, they can have themselves record a declaration of informal marriage. This document can be filed at the county clerk’s office. Having this document on file can help demonstrate that the couple met the requirement to live together for a particular time.