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Common Law Marriage
In Texas, a marriage can exist without the formality of a marriage license and a wedding. Two people living together can agree to be married, and if they publicly act as spouses, a marriage can exist. Whether a common law marriage exists can be a contentious issue and our team of lawyers is ready to help with your common law marriages questions.
Does a Marriage Exist?
If a common law marriage exists, it is treated just like a traditional marriage. Spouses in a common law marriage can get a divorce and can inherit from one another. The prospect of dividing community property in a divorce can lead to intense disagreement over whether a marriage even exists. Proving a common law marriage has three requirements:
1. The Spouses Must Live Together in Texas. A common law marriage cannot exist unless the spouses live together in this state.
2. The Spouses Must Agree to be Married. At the heart of this requirement is that marriage can only exist when both parties agree to be marriage. One party believing a marriage exists is not enough.
3. The Spouses Must “Hold Out” to the Public. There can be no private common law marriage. The couple must have a reputation as being married amongst family, friends, and their community.
Whether a common law marriage exists depends on the facts of each case. Our lawyers have experience with common law marriage cases and can help assess where one exists in your case.
How Do I Prove (or Disprove) a Common Law Marriage?
The party saying there is a marriage must prove that it exists. Every case involving a common law marriage is different. Here are some common questions to answer in evaluating whether a marriage exists:
- Did the parties fill out any government documents and refer to each other as spouses? This can include a filing a joint tax return or a deed to a house showing they are married.
- Did the parties take advantage of any employee benefits reserved only for a spouse, such a health insurance?
- Was there ever an informal “wedding” ceremony with friends and family?
- Do the parties introduce each other to others as “husband” or “wife”? Or, is there a clear rejection of a marriage when meeting others: “Oh, we’re not married.”
- Are there private emails, letters, or cards between the parties addressed to “husband” or “wife”?
In case involving a common law marriage, preparation is key. Gathering evidence and talking to witnesses is the best way to evaluate this type of case. Our experienced team of lawyers is here to answer your questions about common law marriage and evaluate whether one may exist.
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