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Some girls have dreamt of their wedding day since they were children, awaiting the day that they get to wear the white princess ball gown and walk down the aisle in front of their friends and families; on the other hand, some people have no interest in the big ceremony or the fluffy wedding dress. Many couples throughout the country are not keen on the idea of a traditional, formal, ceremonial marriage, but would still appreciate having legal recognition as a married couple. 

Texas is one of eight states that recognize common law marriage, a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not purchased a marriage license, had their marriage solemnized by a ceremony, or otherwise formalized their marriage. Once proven under the law, common law marriages have the same status as ceremonial marriages do and is a legally valid, formal marriage.

3 Requirements for Common Law Marriage

Establishing a common law marriage does not depend on the duration of the relationship or how long a couple has lived together. Rather, the Texas Family Code Section 2.401(a)(2) provides that a common law marriage may be proved by evidence that:

  1. Both parties agree to be married (i.e., a “present, immediate, and permanent intent between the parties to have a marital relationship”);
  2. The parties live together as husband and wife (i.e., cohabitation) ;
  3. Both parties “hold out” to others that they are a married couple (i.e., the parties must represent to others that they are married so that there is no “secret” marital relationship). 

All three of these requirements must exist simultaneously to establish a legally valid common law marriage in the state of Texas, and both parties must have the legal capacity to enter into the marriage (i.e., both parties must be at least 18 years of age, not related to each other, and not currently married to someone else). Determining whether a common-law marriage exists depends on the factual circumstances of each case, meaning that Texas courts review the facts on a case-by-case basis when common-law marriage is at issue.

In regards to the first and third requirements, spoken words, actions, and conduct by each party are examined when determining whether a common-law marriage exists. For example, introducing each other as spouses to friends and family, signing financial documents as a married couple, and other overt acts that represent the couple as a married couple are all factors that support an agreement to be married and that the couple does in fact “hold themselves out” as such. 

More about Common Law Marriage

However, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a “common-law divorce.” Once a legally valid common-law marriage is established, it is treated the same as if it were a traditional ceremonial marriage–meaning that common-law marriage is not a loophole to avoiding divorce proceedings. If you have questions about common-law marriage and the requirements for establishing a common-law marriage, contact an experienced Family Law Attorney today.