Texas is one of a handful of states that recognizes a common law, or informal, marriage. If a person can prove to a court that the couple had a common law marriage, then they will have the same benefits as those who had a marriage ceremony and obtained a legal marriage license.
If the couple separates, the court cannot make any orders regarding property division, child custody, child support, or spousal support unless the court first rules that there was a common law marriage. However, they choose to prove the marriage, both parties must be at least 18 years old.
Filing a Declaration of Marriage
One easy way to prove a common law marriage is for the couple to prepare a Declaration of Marriage, sign it, and file it with the county clerk’s office. That’s all it takes. The filed document is proof of a common law marriage and the couple is considered married for all legal purposes.
How to Prove There Was a Common Law Marriage When There is no Declaration of Marriage on File
If there is no Declaration of Marriage filed with the court, the couple may still prove the existence of a common law marriage by showing:
- They had an agreement that someday, they would get married.
- After they made this agreement, they lived together in the same household.
- They represented themselves to the public that they were married.
Proof that courts have accepted includes:
- A rental or lease agreement referencing husband and wife.
- Joint tax returns listing the couple as spouses.
- An insurance policy that names one as a spouse beneficiary.
- Credit card or other loan applications from the couple as though they are spouses.
- Evidence the friends believed them to be married. Evidence that at least on one occasion, one spouse introduced the other as “my wife” or “my husband” was deemed sufficient evidence by the Texas Supreme Court.
The number of years they lived together or whether they have children together are not factors the court considers in determining whether there was a common law marriage.
The party who wants there to have been a common law marriage must prove all three elements. The party who does not want there to have been such a marriage has to disprove just one of the three elements.
For more information about how to prove your common law marriage, or fight against the proof of a common law marriage, and how to proceed with a divorce if the court determines there is a common law marriage, contact attorney Daniel Abasolo at 940-387-0404.