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Common Law Marriage in Texas

What Is a Common Law Marriage?

A valid common law marriage in Texas is where a man and woman become husband and wife without getting a marriage license and having a marriage ceremony. Once established, a common law marriage has the same legal effect as a ceremonial marriage.

To have a common law marriage in the state, you must do three things:

(1) Agree to be married
(2) Live together as husband and wife, and
(3) Told others (hold yourselves out) that you are married.

In What Ways Do People “Hold Themselves Out” as Married?

Simply put, by telling others that they are married. Examples of telling other people you are married include:

• Introducing yourselves as a married couple; or
• Doing something that made people think you were married, like signing credit applications as a married couple.

Even if you said that you were married only one time, you can meet this requirement.

Can Children Under 18 Enter Into A Common Law Marriage?

No. In Texas, both spouses must be adults. An adult and a child (or two children) can’t have a common law marriage, even if their parents give permission. In other words, no person under the age of 18 can be part of a common law marriage.

Ending a Common Law Marriage

Common law marriages in Texas have the same legal status as a ceremonial marriage. Why is this important? Because if the common law marriage doesn’t work out, you’ll have to get a formal divorce to end it.

Getting a divorce is the same as with other marriages, except the couple must first prove to the court that they were married. The person that first files papers with the court has to prove that there was a common law marriage.

Grounds for Common Law Divorce in Texas

There are seven (7) grounds for divorce in Texas including:

1. Insupportability – Divorce is granted without fault if the marriage can no longer continue because of disagreements or differences that cannot be resolved.

2. Cruelty – Can be mental or physical.

3. Adultery.

4. Felony conviction - During the marriage, your spouse has been convicted of a felony and imprisoned for at least one year (in any state or federal prison) and has not been pardoned. However, you cannot use this ground if your testimony is what was used in court to convict your spouse.

5. Abandonment - Your spouse left you with the intention of abandoning you and remained away for at least one year.

6. Living apart - You and your spouse have lived apart (without cohabitation) for at least three years.

7. Confinement in mental hospital - your spouse has been confined in a mental hospital (state or private) for at least three years (at the time you file for divorce) and it appears that his mental disorder is a type that will not get better (or if it does get better, it appears that a relapse is probable).

Child Support

If you and your common law spouse have had children during the marriage, you may be required to pay child support. The judge may require one or both parents to provide child support and medical support until:

• The child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later;
• The child is emancipated (released from custodial care) or the death of the child.

If the child is disabled, child support payments could last for an indefinite period of time.

Texas marriage laws can be tricky. Consider speaking to a Texas family law attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

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