In many states of the US, there are certain limitations to common law marriages. However, some states allow common law marriages such as Texas. But there are also some misconceptions about common law marriages in Texas that we will be exploring further in this article. Under Texas law, common law marriage is also known as informal marriage or marriage without any formalities is the ultimate legal way for couples to get married in Texas. Let’s explore further are criteria and instructions for common law marriages in Texas.
- Is common law marriage legal in Texas?
- 4 Myths about Common law marriage Texas
- What is a Common law marriage Texas?
- What are the requirements for common law marriages Texas?
- How can Texans resolve their common-law marriages disputes?
- Can same-gender couples apply for common law marriage Texas?
- States that recognize common-law marriages include:
- Difference between licensed and common law marriages
- Rights of a couple in a common law marriage Texas
- What happens if a common law marriage doesn’t work out?
- What could be grounds for divorce in a common-law marriage?
- A legal representative can help
Is common law marriage legal in Texas?
Often people in the US look for answers to the question “is common law marriage legal in texas?” To an extent it is more of an informal thing, however, it is a legal process in which couples can live together in Texas without putting themselves into formalities and legal obligations of a regular marriage. Moreover, common law marriage Texas is a union of two adults living together as a couple without having a formal marriage ceremony or license.
The number of common law marriages Texas is rising as most of the couples in Texas cohabitate before they get married or choose to live under a common-law marriage status. But, you need to know Texas law on common law marriage when you are about to move in together as a couple.
In this article, we will cover some common misconceptions about common law marriages in Texas. But before you put them under your circumstances, make sure to consult an experienced family attorney who has been working with common law marriage cases so he can guide you in a better manner.
4 Myths about common law marriage Texas
Myth 1: If we live together for 6 or more than that, we are common law couples.
Myth 2: If we move together, we are common law married.
Myth 3: If we get engaged, we agree to be in a common law marriage.
Myth 4: If my girlfriend tells someone that they are married, but if I don’t agree then we are common law married.
What is a common law marriage Texas?
A common law marriage is a relationship between couples that come into existence when there is no formal marriage license process. It is commonly performed to prove certain facts and is normalized in different states of the US without having a valid marriage certificate. It can be verified by couples if:
- They are agreed to get married;
- They hold themselves as a married couple; &
- They live together
Moreover, to be in a common-law marriage, you should adhere to the following conditions;
- You must be at least 18 years of age,
- Must not be married to any other individual,
- Must not be in a blood-relationship who is intended to be your spouse in the future.
To make these conditions official, the couple has to sign the declaration in Texas common law marriage form and file this declaration with the local county clerk. The filing of the form validates the common law marriage and will award both parties with the common rights and obligations that a formal married couple bears through traditional licensed marriage.
Apart from the common belief, Texas law on common law marriage does not necessitate couples to live for a certain amount of days, months, or years together before they apply to be in a common law relationship. This is one of many other common misapprehensions that people mostly have regarding common law marriages in Texas.
But the truth is common-law marriages are not that easy as it seems. There are certain requirements that you need to adhere to while moving together with the intention of a common law marriage.
What are the requirements for common law marriages Texas?
According to a common belief, couples have to spend several days or months together and they can apply for common law marriage in Texas. However, Texas law on common law marriage does not define any specific number of days or months for a couple to live together to be referred to as common law married.
For instance, a couple can be called out as a common law married couple if they intend to be legally married in the future and hold together out as a married couple. Besides, couples need to understand that these requirements are imposed so that their constitutional rights of being in a relationship can be protected.
While there’s no limit for the duration of a couple to cohabitate together. But laws do require that the couple should live at least for two years together. But if the couple breaks up and lives apart with no contact for two years, then it would be presumed that the couple did not intend to get into cohabiting or did not wish to enter into a legal agreement.
Additionally in Texas, to comply with the state’s property laws, your marriage date is important to be established. This is usually done to protect your legal rights when your common-law relationship ends. Suppose that you are or were living under common law marriage and own a property together. After some time, your common law marriage ends but you still can claim your property rights.
How can Texans resolve their common-law marriages disputes?
When couples in the common law marriage split, Texas law on common law marriages can be implemented in such circumstances. This is because the Texas community property law states that the debt and assets made under a common law marriage are subjected to split equally when the couples in a common law marriage get a divorce.
In Texas, the family court takes the common law marriage disputes based on case-by-case where the defendants do not need to provide the Texas common law marriage form or the Declaration of Informal marriage. In the property matters, if one of the parties from the couple proves that they complied with all the requirements needed for a common law marriage and withdraw the claim on the property, the assets and debts will be thoroughly transferred to the other party.
Can same-gender couples apply for common law marriage Texas?
According to the US Supreme Court decision in Hodges made in 2014, same-gender marriages are legalized in common law marriages as well in Texas. Moreover, the state identifies and establishes the legal common law marriage date when the couple first met the requirements required to be in an informal or common law marriage.
Texas also recognizes the date of common law marriages if the couples began their relationship in any other state that legalizes same-gender marriages for common law marriages. For instance, a same-gender couple started their informal relationship in Vermont on June 27th, 2010 and they moved to Texas in 2013. If they sign or file a common law marriage declaration, Texas would recognize the established date because Vermont also legalized same-gender marriages under common law marriage.
States that recognize common law marriages include
- District of Columbia
- Rhode Island
- North Carolina
Difference between licensed and common law marriages
Marriage is considered legally binding between two adults. Being in a relationship in most states requires a license and not every state legalizes common law and same-gender marriages. Many states require a person to wed someone who is legally ordained to keep a marriage that should not be of the same gender most of the time. States also require a license of legal marriage to provide spousal benefits such as sharing of the financial accounts and joint tax returns.
On the other hand, people committed in a common-law marriage never say religious or civil vows to each other but entail the equivalent legal recognition as the licensed married couples do. There could be several reasons for which couples choose common law marriages rather than a formal marriage that may include:
- Financial constraints to adhere to formal marriage requirements
- Want to avoid the formalities of formal marriage ceremonies
- Time constraints that do not allow the parties to follow the legal procedures involved in a formal wedding.
Rights of a couple in a common law marriage Texas
Every state that recognizes common law marriages provides similar rights to the couples of common law marriage as a formal marriage. Couples of a common law marriage can receive the spousal benefits, which include:
- Social Security Benefits
- Employer benefits like health insurance
- Unconstrained marital estate exemptions
- Exemptions from gift tax
- Can claim for the deduction of mortgage interest
- Spousal property from a valid will
- Rights to make financial and medical decisions
- Hospital visitation rights
- Child custodial rights
- Rights on assets and other property/properties
- Other Tax exemptions and deductions
Since you get similar rights whether you are in a formal or informal relationship, one may think that why should I not go for an informal marriage which is cost-effective and saves much of my time?
To understand the difference, you should consider that a valid licensed marriage takes you through a legal process to formalize your marriage through paperwork and ceremonies. Additionally, a licensed marriage is a result of documentation that entitles you to the potential rights and duties of that marriage.
Suppose, if you don’t have a formal valid marriage and you become incapable of proving the existence of your informal or common law marriage, you may not be entitled to receive the benefits from that marriage or a successive divorce if proving your relationship becomes hard in the matter of law.
What happens if a common law marriage doesn’t work out?
Texans also retain misconceptions about the existence of common law divorce. However, there’s no such thing called Texas common law divorce. This is because the Texas law on common law marriage defines the laws for getting into a relationship but not getting out of it. That means that in Texas, once you are recognized as an informal married couple, you need to follow the regular divorce procedures as a formal married couple would.
What could be grounds for divorce in a common-law marriage?
Confinement in a Hospital – If a spouse is admitted and confined in a hospital due to a mental disorder or physical ailments for more than two years and possesses a low recovery chance or high relapse probability.
Non-supportability – In Texas, a divorce can be filed and even granted if a spouse cannot prove that the other spouse is at fault or breaking the relationship. In other states, this is also referred to as ‘irreconcilable differences.
Adultery – If a spouse is accusing the other of being disloyal or betraying, he or she has to prove this in court.
Cruelty – It is unsupportable from the court if a spouse is being cruel to the other either physical or verbal. Continuous cohabitation is also discouraged by the court.
Felony Conviction – A State or Federal imprisonment of more than two years or a felony conviction can be the ground of divorce.
Living apart – If the couple is no longer living together for at least three years without cohabitating, the court would not consider them as a common law married couple.
Abandonment – If a spouse abandons the other intentionally and stays away for at least 12 months, the other spouse can use the abandonment as divorce ground.
A legal representative can help
Through common law marriage in Texas, you can receive the equivalent benefits that a regular formal married couple would. Still, it is vital to hold a plan in place to protect your rights if your informal spouse dies without a will or left you for no reason.
An experienced lawyer can help you create your legal documents whether it is your declaration form or a divorce decree. Family attorneys can also draft trusts, estate plans, power of attorneys, wills, and advanced directives that help in establishing inheritance rights. Whenever you decide to take on a decision, do consult a legal representative so he can counsel you and your spouse, and your future marital rights will remain protected.
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