So you want to get married? Or you think you are married? If you are in Texas, there are two different ways to be married. The first is called a ceremonial marriage. It’s what you think of when you picture a traditional wedding or a couple saying their vows in front of a justice of the peace.
What is a ceremonial marriage in Texas?
The last thing you want to do is have a wedding and not be married. To make sure that doesn’t happen let’s go over the rules for a ceremonial marriage. In Texas, a valid ceremonial marriage requires four things.
1- the couple must obtain a marriage license
2- the county clerk executes the marriage license
3- the ceremony must be performed within ninety days of issuance of the license;
4- the ceremony must be conducted by a clergyman, state or federal judge, or other public official as defined by the family code, (after the wedding this official returns the marriage license to the county clerk)
Who can conduct a marriage ceremony in Texas?
The list of people who can perform a marriage ceremony is really long. It includes- Christian ministers (licensed or ordained), Jewish rabbis, any person who is an officer of a religious organization and who is authorized by the organization to conduct a marriage ceremony (you can get some of these licenses online and marry your friends!); all kind of judges, even retired judges, see- TEX. FAM. CODE § 2.202(a).
That’s it. Get those done and you are married, ceremonially.
What is the other type of marriage? It is a common law, or informal marriage.
What are the rules for common law or informal marriage in Texas?
There are two ways to establish a common-law marriage in Texas-
The first is by filing a declaration of informal marriage.
The second is by showing three things-
1- an agreement to be married
2- living together after agreeing to be married
3- holding themselves out as married
We see the most litigation on common law marriages on agreeing to be married and holding themselves out as married. Lots of people live together, but it’s only living together after agreeing to be married that counts. And after that, you must represent that you are married (think tax returns), and then you can establish a common law marriage. But, if you are living with someone who calls your their wife/husband/spouse you should consider filing a declaration of informal marriage or getting married just so everyone knows. You might also consider a pre or post nuptial agreement if there are assets to protect. The situation you want to avoid is when parties are living together for years, buying property and raising kids, and then they split up and no one can agree on who owns what or how to divide assets. That situation means the lawyers are going to have to work it out in court, which is more costly than if the parties just agreed to be married or not in the first place. Marriage offers some benefits in terms of establishing community property and can protect spouses who are not earning as much income.