In Texas, couples can get married without the formality of any type of ceremony. This is known as common law marriage or informal marriage. Although many states do not allow residents to marry without formalities the way Texas does, common law marriages formed in Texas are recognized in all other states. 

Therefore, it is important for couples to understand what it takes to create a valid common law marriage and what it takes to dissolve one. McKinney divorce lawyers explain how common law marriage works in Texas. 

Texas' Common Law Marriage Statute

Texas formally provides for the formation of informal marriages through Texas Family Law Code §2.401. This statute specifies that a common law marriage exists when a couple: 

  • Agree to be married
  • Live together as married (after agreeing to marry)
  • Represent to others that they are married

Of course, couples must also have the legal capacity to marry, meaning that each party must be at least 18-years-old and not already married.

The statute allows a couple to prove their marriage by signing a declaration of informal marriage, so long as the document meets a number of requirements. McKinney divorce lawyers could help create a marriage declaration to legally demonstrate the validity of a common law marriage. 

Although the statutory language specifically refers to couples as “husband and wife,” in light of critical court decisions, Texas officially recognizes same-sex common law marriages. 

McKinney Divorce Lawyers Bust Two Myths About Common Law Marriage and Divorce

Because many people do not understand the legal requirements for creating (or ending) a common law marriage in Texas, there are some popular myths that are simply wrong. First, there is no specific length of time that must pass before a couple becomes married after living together. If they intend to marry, live together as married, and let others know that they’re married, then they are married, even if their time together is quite brief. 

By the same token, a couple that has lived together for decades does not automatically become married based on their time together. Common law marriage requires intent and publicity of some type. 

The second prevalent myth encountered by McKinney divorce lawyers is that a couple married informally can also divorce informally. This is not true. A common law marriage grants couples the same rights as other married couples, and they must usually follow the same requirements to end that marriage as couples married in a formal setting. In some cases, it may be possible to show that a common law marriage never existed, however, if a suit is not commenced to prove the marriage before the second anniversary of the parties’ separation. 

Our McKinney Divorce Lawyers Can Help Prove or Dissolve a Common Law Marriage

Proving the validity of a common law marriage can be a challenge for some couples. And ending a common law marriage can be a legal nightmare if parties do not agree about key issues or understand their legal position and associated rights regarding issues such as property division, alimony, and custody. If you have questions about your common law marriage or need assistance, the experienced McKinney divorce lawyers at Nordhaus & Nordhaus are ready to help protect your rights. Contact us now for a free confidential consultation.