As we discussed in our last post, Texas couples may be able to take advantage of many of our state’s legal benefits extended to married couples even if they have not been through the formal marriage process. An informal marriage provides tax benefits and other protections in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse. But challenges can arise in such an arrangement that often lead partners to consider professional legal advice.

For one thing, just because you have an informal marriage doesn’t mean you can get an informal divorce in the same way. As a legally binding contract, ending an informal marriage requires the same procedures as a traditional divorce. This means that a court will need to rule on property division, and if the couple has children together, issues of custody and child support as well. Divorcing partners would also have the right to ask for spousal support after the end of an informal marriage.

It’s also possible for a divorcing partner to dispute that an informal marriage ever existed in the first place. As we discussed previously, there need not be any written contract or other proof in order to have an informal marriage. This can leave some partners and their children vulnerable if they were financially dependent on their spouses when those spouses want to walk away from the informal marriage. A legal professional may be able to help gather evidence to establish in court that the criteria for an informal marriage were met.

Finally, consider what happens to unmarried couples when one or the other passes away. Marriage provides important rights regarding a deceased partner’s estate as well as decision-making power. A spouse in a valid informal marriage would have those same legal rights and protections, but it may be necessary to prove the existence of the informal marriage in probate court. Again, this is an area of law in which a legal professional will have the experience and knowledge to handle efficiently and effectively.

Readers with additional questions about informal marriage may find more information on our Dallas Common Law Marriage Attorney page. This is, however, intended as general information only and not specific advice. Consulting with a professional is an important step to help establish an informal marriage or to address legal issues that arise in the course of one.