Not all states recognize or have legal provisions for Common Law Marriages. However, Texas does. A Common Law Marriage is entered into when two people have declared that they are married. The practice of Common Law Marriages dates back to the frontier days. In the state of Texas, there simply were not enough pastors or priests to marry all of the couples who were in love. Despite the fact that clergymen did not marry these couples, the couples lived together as husband and wife and declared in front of witnesses, (family, friends, and their community) that they were married. There were no legal grounds to deny that these couples were married and the union known as Common Law Marriages began to take hold throughout Texas.
Today, the state of Texas still recognizes Common Law Marriages, though they are more commonly referred to as Informal Marriages. Yet, for a couple to be declared a Common Law Marriage certain legal requirements must be met and adhered too. Many times, couples may try to have things more than one way. They may try to claim that they are married for tax or health benefits, yet declare they are single for credit purposes. The law will determine if a couple is in fact married through Common Law, and it is important that couples understand their status and adhere to it.
First, to be declared a true Common Law Marriage in the state of Texas, there must have been an intention or declaration that the couple was living as a married couple. This will need to be proved in court and it is often verified through documents such as tax returns, health insurance forms, leases, and verbal communication through witnesses. It is very important that couples understand the legal issues involved when representing themselves as husband and wife.
Some may think that it is simpler to have a Common Law Marriage then to be officially married and risk the chance of undergoing a subsequent divorce, however many find that Common Law Marriages may be just as messy and emotionally heartbreaking when they end as regular marriages.
So, with the intent of being married and the declaration that you are married by presenting yourselves as married to others, you are considered to be in a Common Law Marriage. If you are cohabitating in the state of Texas, you are in a Common Law Marriage. Now, not all couples who live together want to be considered to be in a Common Law Marriage. These couples would benefit greatly by having a non-marital agreement that defines the terms of their relationship. By creating this agreement, you are both protected should you decide in the future to end your relationship.
However, for those couples that have been living together as husband and wife and they want to end the relationship, a number of issues begin to arise. How will the couple distribute property that they have accumulated? What about the children? Who will determine Possession and Conservatorship? It is very important to realize that once you have been established to be in a Common Law Marriage, the same rules that apply to other legally married couples are applicable to you as well. Because of this, a Common Law Marriage will end in divorce, just as a traditional marriage.
You should never make the mistake of believing that you were in a Common Law Marriage and do not need a formal divorce. If your Common Law Marriage has ended, you should seek the advice of a divorce attorney immediately.