Facts and Myths Regarding “Common Law Marriage” in the state of Texas.
I am sure you have heard, more than a few times, a partner in a long-term relationship claim “We’ve been together so long, we are common law married.” There are many misunderstandings or myths regarding this designation, its’ qualifications, and what is the defined law in the state of Texas regarding common law marriages.
I have heard multiple times in conversation with friends and family, that if a couple lives together for a certain amount of time, or one party receives mail at a certain address, or the couple has children together etc., that the couple is considered married at common law in Texas. That is not correct. So, what is true, and what is not?
Common law (or informal) marriage is a legal marriage without a ceremony or other formalities. It is called an “informal marriage” in Texas and can be created only if certain specific legal requirements are met. Proving a common law marriage does NOT depend on how long you have been living together or whether you have children together. If you want to prove an informal marriage in Texas, you must show that all the following have been met:
You and your partner: are not already married, informally or formally, to anyone else at the time the marriage was created; AND, both you and your partner were at least 18 years of age when the marriage was created; AND, you agreed to be married, AND, afterward, lived in Texas as a married couple, AND, represented to others that you are married (“holding out” to others).
Is common law or informal marriage legally valid? Yes, once common law marriage has been proved, it is legally valid as a formal marriage and has no “lesser status” in the court of law. So, that means you must get divorced if the marriage does not work out. Just going your separate ways will not take care of the situation.
How do you prove common law marriage? It does not depend on just one fact. Texas courts have ruled that “an agreement to be married and holding out to others” by proof of one or more of the following:
That you lived together, told others that you were married, used your partner’s last name, filed joint tax returns as spouses or as a married person filing singly, signed leases or other documents as spouses, made joint purchases, included your partner on your health insurance, made your partner the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, made joint loan applications or agreements, applied for public benefits and listed your partner as “spouse”, and having children together. Introducing your partner as your spouse on a single occasion might not be enough by itself, but it may be if coupled with other evidence suggesting that you acted like a married couple and that others thought you were married.
Under Texas law, all property acquired during a marriage (formal or informal) is community property. If a common law marriage is proved, community property is divided the same as if the parties were formally married. It doesn’t matter which spouse made the purchase or whose name is on the title. Debts accumulated during a common law marriage are also divided between the spouses.
If no common law marriage is proved, there is no marital property or debts to divide. As single people, the parties will keep their personal property and property titled to them and will remain individually responsible for their debts. Proving a common law marriage can affect whether partners who end their relationship can split property and liabilities between them. Everything above applies to same-sex couples. You must have lived in Texas after you agreed to be married. You can’t establish a common law marriage if you and your partner did not live in Texas after agreeing to be married.
If you want to read the exact verbiage of the Texas Family Code regarding common law marriage, click on the link: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.2.htm#E
If questions arise, or any fact is unclear regarding your marriage, the validity of same, and/or your rights, please contact the attorneys at Scroggins Law Group. With 3 DFW locations in Dallas, Plano, and Frisco, Mr. Scroggins has been serving the North Texas and DFW area for over 25 years. Find us online at www.scrogginslawgroup.com, or call us 214-469-3100.