Nowadays, more and more couples opt to be in a committed, monogamous relationship and live together without ever wanting to get married. Because of this, changes to the laws are developed to provide unmarried couples with equal partnership rights. Thus, enter an arrangement called common law marriage.
Have you lived with your significant other for some time? Are you considering separation, but you are concerned about your rights? Do you want to know if your union is even classified as a common law marriage?
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How Does Common Law Marriage Work?
Couples in a common law marriage have legal duties to each other even without being legally married, in the traditional way.
The validity of an informal marriage depends on the state you live in. In Texas, for example, this type of union is recognized by the law. In fact, Texas is only one of the nine states in the country that recognize common law marriages.
For the purposes of this article, and since our practice is located in Texas, we’ll look at how a common law marriage works in the Lone Star state.
Texas Family Code’s Definition of Common Law Marriage
Common law marriage is also defined as “marriage without formalities” or “informal marriage” by the Texas Family Code. Neither a residency requirement or specific time period is needed, however, to make your union valid as an informal marriage, here are the conditions you must meet:
- Both individuals are over 18
- Neither individual is married to anyone else
- The couple is living as husband and wife in Texas
- You have identified yourself to other people as being married.
Formal Declaration of Common Law Marriage
According to the Texas Family Code, Section 2.402, couples not formally married must sign and submit a document called “Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage.” This document must be filed within their county’s court jurisdiction. The contents of the Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage must include the following:
- County of residence of the couple.
- Full name of the couple; this includes the woman’s maiden name.
- Admittance that the couple is not related to each other in any other way, such as by means of adoption or being a stepparent or stepchild.
- Declaration that the couple admits they are in a committed, monogamous relationship.
- Declaration that neither of the parties is presently married to anyone else.
- Date that the couple has started living together.
- A certificate from the county clerk regarding the declarations were made under their supervision, and the date the declaration was made.
- Statute of Limitations
If you need help to make your declaration of common law marriage official, reach out to your local family law attorney for expert guidance and advice.
Important Facts About Common Law Marriage in Texas
Official Date of a Common Law Marriage
You may be inclined to believe that your informal marriage officially started when you started living under the same roof.
Perhaps your partner thinks it’s when you decided to be each other’s spouse.
While the official date of your common law or informal marriage may not be of great importance if you plan to stay together, our professional advice is to establish this critical date for significant reasons. Read on below.
Dissolution of Common Law Marriages
Once you have established the date of your informal marriage and have made an official declaration at the county clerk’s office, you will be under the same rules and provisions of a couple married traditionally.
Texas is a community property state. Thus, any retirement accounts, debts, and assets accrued during the marriage – common law or not – until the date of separation or divorce are expected to be divided between the couple.
Expiration Date of an Informal Marriage
While there is no required period of time that a couple must be officially living together to declare themselves as informally married in Texas, the same can’t be said when they decide to break up or live apart.
If you or your partner fails to file a plea with the county clerk to declare your common law marriage within two years of separating or living apart, then your informal marriage claim will be deemed void.
Protect Your Rights
If you’re in a serious relationship where you live together, make sure that your rights and assets are still protected. Speak with a trusted and local family law attorney to see your best options.