The intricacies of common law marriage, known in Texas as an informal marriage, can often be complex and misunderstood. In the state of Texas, the law acknowledges the validity of these unions, which can carry significant legal weight for couples who live together and regard themselves as married, despite not having formalized their relationship through a ceremony or marriage license. At Blacknall Firm, our commitment is to equip our clients with a thorough understanding of their legal standing. This article seeks to clarify the concept of common law marriage in Texas, offering essential insights for couples who may be affected by this legal provision.
What is Common Law Marriage?
In Texas, a common law marriage is a legally recognized union where a couple lives together and publicly represents themselves as married without a formal ceremony or marriage license. The state of Texas upholds common law marriages as legally equivalent to formal marriages, provided certain criteria are met.
Legal Requirements for Common Law Marriage in Texas: According to Texas Family Code, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 2, Section 2.401, a common law marriage can be validated in two primary ways:
- The couple has signed and registered a declaration of their marriage with the county clerk.
- The couple has agreed to be married, lives together in Texas as a married couple, and has represented to others that they are married.
Couples can formalize their common law marriage by filing a Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage with the county clerk, which then serves as a legal acknowledgment of their marital status.
Implications of Common Law Marriage
The recognition of a common law marriage confers upon a couple the same legal rights and duties as those afforded to couples in a ceremonial marriage. This encompasses property and inheritance rights, as well as liabilities for debts. Should the relationship dissolve, the couple must pursue a legal divorce, akin to those married ceremonially. Without an official divorce, individuals may remain legally married, potentially complicating subsequent relationships and financial affairs.
Evidence and Common Law Marriage
It’s crucial to understand that certain evidence, such as joint bank accounts, insurance policies, or joint tax returns, does not automatically establish a common law marriage. These elements are considered pieces of evidence that may contribute to the overall determination of whether a common law marriage exists. They are indicative of a couple’s financial cohabitation and shared responsibilities but, in isolation, do not define the existence of a common law marriage. The totality of the circumstances is considered when determining the validity of a common law marriage, and no single factor is determinative.
Disproving Common Law Marriage
Challenging the existence of a common law marriage can be as nuanced as proving one. If one partner asserts a common law marriage while the other denies it, the onus is on the claimant to prove the marriage’s existence. The court will examine the evidence in the context of the couple’s entire relationship history to arrive at a conclusion.
Common law marriage offers a non-traditional route to marital recognition and its associated legal implications. Couples engaged in or contemplating a common law marriage in Texas should be fully aware of the legal requirements and consequences. At Blacknall Firm, our attorneys specialize in providing clear, informed guidance through the complexities of common law marriage. We are committed to ensuring that our clients make knowledgeable decisions regarding their relationships and legal status.