Texas is one of a number of states that recognizes common law marriage as a legal marriage when certain requirements are met.
Where things can get tricky and require couples to enlist the guidance of a divorce attorney is when the relationship comes to an end.
Because a common law marriage is considered the same as a ceremonial one, ending that relationship is a bit more involved than the original union of two people.
What Is Common Law Marriage?
A common law marriage is one where two people decided to live together like a married couple and present themselves as married.
Divorce lawyers come across many incorrect ideas about common law marriage, including how long it takes to establish one, living arrangements, engagements, and more.
Most of the perceptions of common law marriage are myths, as Texas law states only three requirements for establishing a common law marriage:
- Both spouses agree that they are married to each other; one cannot decide to be in a common law marriage without the agreement of the other.
- Spouses live together as a married couple without any particular time limit as it can apply from the first day of co-habitation.
- Spouses publicly present to others that they are married to each other.
If the two spouses fulfill all three of these points, then they are considered to be legally common law married.
Why Is It Important to Declare A Common Law Marriage?
Spouses who are common law married can declare their informal marriage be made official by registering the marriage at the appropriate Texas county clerk’s office by obtaining a declaration of marriage.
Although this is not required for the marriage to be recognized as common law, divorce lawyers find that officially declaring the marriage can alleviate many problems later on should the couple decide they no longer want to be married.
This is true because Texas is a community property state and even the ending of a common law marriage involves the same process of splitting up property, debt, and other responsibilities.
All property and debt obtained throughout the marriage becomes common marital property and must be handled as such and equally dispersed.
What Happens When A Common Law Relationship Ends?
Even though a common law marriage is an informal agreement, it is legally binding in Texas and is treated just like any other marriage.
Should spouses decide they no longer want to be married, they must file for a divorce just like couples who were married by a ceremony; it is not legal for them to simply say they are no longer married.
Many divorce attorneys find problems arising in these circumstances regarding issues of property division, child custody, and similar concerns.
It’s very easy for one spouse to deny ever being involved in a common law marriage to avoid going through the required divorce process, which is why officially declaring the marriage protects both spouses should a divorce be sought in the future.
Without an official declaration, proving or disproving the establishment of a common law marriage becomes more challenging and can greatly complicate the divorce process.
Legal Divorce Applies to Common Law Marriages
In summary, while it’s easy to assume a common law marriage when spouses fit the three requirements, ending a common law marriage involves the same legal process as any other marriage does - a divorce.
To avoid additional bother, stress, and expense later on if one or both spouses seek to dissolve the marriage, divorce lawyers stress the importance of obtaining an official declaration of marriage early on in a common law situation!
Reynaldo Garza, III
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520