On behalf of The Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, PC posted in blog on Friday, April 7, 2017.

It is common knowledge that to legally end a marriage in Texas, you must get a divorce. However, what about terminating common law marriages? Do they require the same legal procedure? The answer is yes, but first, you must be sure that your relationship qualifies as a common law marriage.

Requirements for a common law marriage in Texas

Texas is one of the few states that allow you to be legally married without going through the traditional method of obtaining a license and having a ceremony. However, cohabitating for years and having children together are not enough to turn your relationship into a common law marriage. You must meet three criteria:

  • Both you and your partner agree to the marriage.
  • You live in Texas as husband and wife.
  • You represent yourself in public as spouses.

You have to fulfill all three requirements to qualify. You also have the option of filing a declaration of your informal marriage with your county clerk. This legal recognition makes it easier to prove your common law marriage in a divorce. However, it does not replace the three qualifications.

Divorce in a common law marriage

An informal marriage holds the same weight as a formal one, so all the divorce laws apply to the division of property, other assets and debt. It has minimal effect on child custody and support because these obligations do not rely on your marital status.

The only difference in a divorce with a common law marriage is proving its existence, especially without a declaration. There may be reasons why your spouse may not want to admit to the informal marriage, such as to keep you from community property. Evidence you may need includes insurance policies, joint tax returns and leases. You may also have witnesses testify that you meet the three criteria for informal marriage. Since this part of the divorce process is the most complex, it is wise to seek the assistance of an experienced Texas family law attorney.