In Texas, a traditional, ceremonial marriage isn’t the only way a legally recognized union can be formed. The Lone Star State is one of a few places that recognize common law (informal) marriages. At Guest & Gray, our Dallas County divorce lawyers have observed that many people don’t fully understand how common law marriage works or how it affects the process of divorce. This blog post aims to shed light on these aspects.
What Defines a Marriage in Texas?
Firstly, it’s essential to understand what constitutes a common law marriage in Texas. Three key elements must be met:
- Both parties must agree to be married.
- Both must live together as husband and wife in Texas.
- Both must represent to others that they are married.
Once these elements are fulfilled, the couple is considered married under Texas law. The length of the relationship doesn’t impact the legality of the common law marriage. However, a couple wishing to formalize their common law marriage may choose to file a Declaration of Informal Marriage with the county clerk.
Common Law Marriage and Divorce
Now, how does Texas’ common law marriage rule impact the process of divorce? Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “common law divorce” in Texas. Once a common law marriage is established, it is treated like any other marriage, and therefore, it must be formally dissolved through the legal divorce process.
In a divorce proceeding, the court first determines whether a common law marriage exists. If one party disputes the existence of the marriage, the other party must prove the three elements of a common law marriage were met. This can be complex, requiring evidence such as shared bank accounts, lease agreements, or statements from others who knew the couple as married.
If the court recognizes the marriage, the divorce will proceed in the same manner as with a traditional marriage. All issues regarding property division, child custody, child support, and alimony are handled in the same way. Remember, Texas is a community property state, which means that all property acquired during the marriage is divided equally upon divorce, whether the marriage is traditional or common law.
It’s important to note that if a common law couple separates but does not legally divorce and one party later enters a new relationship, they may inadvertently commit bigamy, a criminal offense in Texas. Hence, it’s vital to formally dissolve a common law marriage if the relationship ends.
Are You Looking to End a Common Law Marriage?
Navigating a common law divorce can be complex, and having experienced legal counsel is paramount. At Guest & Gray, our Dallas County divorce attorneys have extensive experience handling common law marriage divorces. Our attorneys can help you determine whether a common law marriage exists, guide you through the divorce process, and advocate for your best interests. We understand the intricacies of common law marriages and their implications in a divorce scenario. If you believe you’re in a common law marriage and are considering divorce, reach out to us for guidance and support. We’re here to assist you in navigating this unique aspect of Texas family law. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Dallas County divorce lawyer, give Guest & Gray a call at 972-564-4644 or reach out to us through our secure online contact form.