A couple engages in a deep conversation with a lawyer, seeking clarity and understanding about the nuances of Texas Common Law Marriage.

If you and your partner are living together but not married in Texas, you may wonder if your relationship counts as a common-law marriage. And if so, what kinds of benefits come with that designation?

From property division to inheritance, common-law marriage has major implications even if you never intended it. Whether you’re in a long-term committed relationship or facing an unexpected legal conflict, it’s vital to understand where you stand under Texas law.

What Are the Eligibility Criteria for a Texas Common Law Marriage?

A couple sits eagerly in front of a lawyer, delving into the specifics of Texas common law marriage eligibility criteria to understand their own standing.

Common law marriage or informal marriage is a unique feature in the vast landscape of Texas law. To be considered common law married, couples must meet specific criteria hinge on age, relationship status, and mutual agreement.

However, the process can be quite different regarding common-law divorce. It is important to note that common-law marriage existed in the past and continues to be recognized in Texas, with each partner being considered a common-law spouse. By understanding how to recognize common-law marriage, individuals can better navigate the complexities of this legal arrangement.

We will discuss these prerequisites more thoroughly.

Age Requirements

You may be surprised to learn that just like a formal marriage, both parties must be at least 18 years old to enter into a common law marriage in Texas. That’s right, this rule has no exceptions, even for star-crossed lovers.

Attempting to circumvent this regulation can lead to legal penalties as the law prohibits individuals under 18 from entering into a common law marriage. Official documents such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license, or other government-issued IDs may be necessary to confirm the age.

Relationship Status

Beyond the emotional connection between the partners wishing to be common law married, it’s legally necessary for neither party to be married to another person. This is true even for those currently entangled in a lengthy divorce process with another person.

The couple must also represent themselves as a married couple to others, living together and acknowledging their marital status in their community. In essence, ‘legally married’ under Texas common law implies a legitimate and lawful marriage without formalities, commonly called informal marriage.

How to Recognize a Texas Common Law Marriage

A Texas lawyer meticulously reviews documents, poised to advocate for the recognition of a common law marriage in accordance with state legal standards.

Identifying a common law marriage in Texas can prove challenging, given the diverse range of evidence required. Many elements can help establish the legal marriage date from joint accounts to family statements. The state of Texas acknowledges these marriages and even allows couples to further solidify their status by filing a Declaration of Informal Marriage.

Declaration of Informal Marriage

Couples in a common-law marriage can use the Declaration of Informal Marriage form to assert their union and the date it began formally. To file this declaration, the couples must:

  1. Sign the form
  2. Submit it to the county clerk
  3. Affirm their marriage
  4. Specify the marriage date

Submitting this declaration not only formalizes the common law marriage but also confers several legal benefits, including:

  • Ensuring the same rights and protections as those of couples who have undergone a formal marriage ceremony
  • Inheritance rights
  • The capacity to make medical decisions for your partner

The official marriage date, whether it’s a ceremonial marriage or a common law marriage, holds significant legal value as it signifies the earliest date on which the couple met all the legal requirements for a common law marriage in Texas.

What Are the Rights and Responsibilities in a Common Law Marriage?

A distracted couple sits side by side, engrossed in their phones, symbolizing the modern challenges and overlooked responsibilities inherent in a common law marriage.

Similar to other marriages, a common law marriage in Texas carries specific rights and responsibilities. The property acquired during the marriage is legally considered community property and may be divided by the courts if the couple decides to part ways. This means that both partners have an equal right to the assets acquired during the marriage.

In the unfortunate event of a partner passing away without a will, the surviving partner is also entitled to inherit property in accordance with Texas’ intestate succession laws.

The good news is that couples in a Texas common law marriage can file joint taxes, just as couples in a traditional marriage do. It’s clear then that a common law marriage, though informal, carries substantial legal weight and responsibilities.

Tax Returns & Social Security Benefits: Key Considerations

Texas recognizes common-law marriage as legally valid, which has significant implications for your tax and benefit status:

  • Tax Filing: You may be required (or choose) to file jointly as a married couple, impacting deductions and overall tax liability. A qualified tax professional or attorney can advise on your situation’s most advantageous filing status.
  • Social Security Benefits: A common-law marriage could entitle you to spousal or survivor benefits if eligible. Understanding how this affects your income and long-term financial planning is crucial.
  • Government Benefits: A common-law marriage may impact Some means-tested benefits, as eligibility is often based on your combined household income.

Important Note: These are complex areas with significant financial consequences. Seek personalized guidance from a tax specialist and/or a family law attorney familiar with the impact of common-law marriage on these specific issues.

How to Dissolve a Common Law Marriage in Texas

An upset couple sits tensely in a Texas law office, confronting the emotional and legal complexities of dissolving their common law marriage.

Ending a common law marriage, similar to its inception, requires mutual consent. Dissolving a common law marriage in Texas mirrors the formal divorce process, including filing a divorce petition and serving the spouse. This might seem daunting, but it’s a necessary step to ensure the fair distribution of marital property and debts.

In terms of asset division, the principle of community property reigns. Most assets obtained during the marriage are classified as community property and are divided by the court in a manner deemed ‘just and right’. This division may not necessarily be equal but is based on the unique circumstances of the marriage.

Spousal maintenance or alimony is another aspect determined during the dissolution of a common law marriage. The court decides this on a case-by-case basis, depending on various factors and the prerequisites for establishing a common law marriage.

Same-Sex Couples and Texas Common Law Marriage

Following the landmark 2015 U.S Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, Texas officially acknowledged same-sex common law marriages.

In Texas, the Relation Back Doctrine allows same-sex couples who met the criteria for a common law marriage before the legalization of same-sex marriages to have their union recognized retroactively. This ruling is an example of the strides made in recognizing the rights and relationships of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Navigating Legal Issues in Texas Common Law Marriages

A focused lawyer sifts through a stack of documents, strategizing the best course of action to navigate the intricate legal issues surrounding Texas Common Law Marriages.

The scope of legal issues in Texas common law marriages can be as expansive as the state’s geography. From establishing the existence of the marriage to resolving disputes, the legal landscape of common law marriages can be complex. This is where the expertise of a skilled lawyer can be invaluable.

The longer you wait to address a potential common-law marriage situation, the fewer options you may have. Whether you believe you’re married under Texas law or need to protect yourself from an unintended legal relationship, Ben Carrasco can help you take informed, decisive action. Get the clarity and protection you deserve. Contact Ben Carrasco today.

Frequently Asked Questions

A lawyer answering questions about the intricacies and implications of Texas common law marriage with clarity and expertise.

What is common law marriage in Texas?

Common law marriage in Texas is a legal marriage recognized by the state without the requirement of a formal ceremony or marriage license. It involves two individuals who agree to be married and hold themselves out as spouses.

How long do you have to be together in Texas for common law marriage?

In Texas, there is no specific time requirement for common law marriage. Even a couple living together for a short period can be considered common law married if they meet certain criteria.

How do we prove our common law marriage in Texas?

Evidence of a common law marriage in Texas may include joint bank accounts, shared property titles, testimony from witnesses who knew the couple as married, or other documentation showing the couple’s intent to be married.

Do we need to file any paperwork to be recognized as common law married in Texas?

No, there is no formal paperwork required to establish a common law marriage in Texas. However, couples may choose to sign a Declaration of Informal Marriage form with the county clerk to make their common law marriage official.

Can individuals under 18 enter into a common law marriage in Texas?

No, individuals under 18 cannot enter into a common law marriage in Texas.

Are common law wives entitled to half in Texas?

Yes, in Texas, if a common law marriage is proved, community property is divided the same as if the parties were formally married, including assets and debts.

Do unmarried partners have any rights under Texas law?

Yes, unmarried partners in Texas do have legal rights, including the ability to make medical decisions for each other in certain situations. These rights are important to consider for unmarried partners in the state.

Can we obtain a divorce if we are common law married in Texas?

Yes, common law marriages in Texas can be dissolved through divorce proceedings, just like traditional marriages. The same legal requirements and processes apply.

About the Author
Ben Carrasco is a highly skilled family law attorney based in Austin, Texas, known for his extensive expertise in family law and business litigation. While his primary focus is family law, Ben brings a wealth of experience in litigating diverse business disputes, ranging from breach of contract and collections to business torts, fraud, and real estate matters. In his family law practice, Ben navigates all aspects of the field, including divorce, child custody, support, property division, and more, offering clients expert guidance throughout the litigation process. His legal journey began in complex commercial litigation, initially with a global law firm and later with a prominent Austin-based firm. However, driven by a desire to make a direct impact on people's lives and embrace the human element of the law, Ben transitioned to family law, a decision that has proven to be deeply rewarding. A proud Austin native with roots in California, Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his law degree at Stanford Law School, where he excelled in legal writing and served as an associate editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.