How is Common Law Marriage Unique in Texas?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Jimmy Vaught with Vaught Law Firm LLC..
Common law marriage, also referred to as non-ceremonial or sui iuris marriage, and marriage by habit and repute, refers to an informal yet legal union between two people with the same legal obligations of a married couple without undergoing an official civil or religious ceremony. Only a handful of states continue to recognize common law marriage, Texas being one of them. Texas is unique in that no official paperwork needs to be filed to affirm a common law marriage; in fact, the qualifications for a common law marriage in Texas are incredibly simple.
If a couple holds themselves out as a married couple, they are considered legally married under Texas law.
When any couple over the age of 18 consisting of two unmarried people holds themselves out or presents themselves as a married couple to friends, family, or society in a public way, under Texas law this qualifies as a common law marriage. Other ways that a couple may qualify as common law married is if they agree to be married and/or live together. In fact, in Texas there is no minimum amount of time a couple must live together to be considered common law married if they agree to be married. If a couple lives together without an agreement to be married or holding themselves out as married, they may be considered common law married after cohabitation for at least two years.
Spouses in a common law marriage have the same rights as those in a traditional marriage.
Contrary to popular belief, both members of a common law marriage are entitled to the same rights as any formally married couple. These rights include the right to workplace spousal benefits, spousal support in the event of separation, child support and custody agreements, hospital visitation rights, and more.
It’s important to recognize these and other rights in order to protect and utilize them during the marriage and/or in the event of a separation. Some couples may choose a common law marriage in Texas for this very reason; they have the same rights as any married couple, but do not have to commit to the time and money typically associated with undergoing an official civil or religious ceremony.
The biggest legal difference between common law marriage and formal marriage in Texas is the ease of exercising marital rights.
The primary difficulty associated with common law marriage in Texas is the need to first prove that a common law marriage exists before exercising the above and other spousal rights. Traditional civil and religious marriages typically include a good deal of paperwork; this documentation removes any room for argument regarding the legitimacy of the union and the rights of both parties. A spouse seeking to exercise their rights in a common law marriage might find it difficult if they are unable to prove that the relationship with their partner qualifies as common law.
To learn more about common law marriages in Texas, or for help exercising marriage rights in a common law union, reach out to a family law attorney in your area.