- Recognizing common-law marriages
- Recognizing common-law marriages from other states
- How finances are viewed between two unmarried people
- How children between two unmarried people are viewed
- Common-law marriage myths
Texas recognizes common-law marriages, but these unions don't happen automatically. You can't just move in together and count down the days until you're married via common law. Instead, you must talk about your partner in a specific way, live together, and otherwise act like a married couple.
While you're not required to hold an official ceremony, completing a marriage declaration within the Texas courts is the safest way to ensure that your union is recognized.
If you have common-law marriage status, breaking up is your equivalent to getting divorced. However, no common-law divorce option exists in Texas. Without this formal legal step, your rights concerning shared property and children may not be protected.
Does Texas recognize common-law marriages?
Texas laws include provisions for common-law marriages. You must complete specific steps for your union to be legally recognized.
Before you can enter into a marriage of any type, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must not be related to your potential spouse.
- You must be unmarried.
To prove that you are part of a common-law marriage, you must meet the following conditions simultaneously:
- You agree that you are married.
- You live together as a couple.
- You "hold out" or demonstrate to others that you are married.
It's easy to prove that you live together, but meeting the other two requirements can be difficult. If you both wear rings, introduce one another as husband or wife, or talk about one another using these terms, you could prove you're married.
But if your union breaks up, you could waste time and resources trying to prove that you're married in court. Generally, it's best for common-law partners to register their relationship with the Declaration and Registration of Informal Marriage form filed within the Texas court system. This document ensures that you both admit to your married status.
Does Texas recognize common-law marriages from other states?
Many other states recognize common-law marriages. If you lived in one of these areas and moved to Texas, you'll follow the same guidelines listed above. If you cohabitate, agree that you're married, and demonstrate your union to others, you're in a common-law Texas marriage.
Every state has legal requirements for marriage. The following states recognize new common-law unions in some or most circumstances:
- District of Columbia
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
In most of these states, couples must somehow demonstrate their union to others and live together.
How does Texas view finances between two unmarried people?
Texas is a community property state, meaning you split assets and debts equally when you divorce your spouse. Unmarried people have no such protections.
If you live with someone else and share property without a traditional or common-law marriage, you're not legally entitled to anything when you split up. You could head to court to fight for what you want in the break-up, but you won't get anything automatically.
When your relationship ends, your partner isn't required to provide ongoing financial support. If you're married, you could ask for spousal support payments enforced by the courts, but unmarried people don’t have this right.
How does Texas view children between two unmarried people?
If you share children and aren't married, you must settle child custody and support agreements when you begin living apart. Texas courts and mediators can help to facilitate these discussions.
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Common-law marriage myths
All states recognize common-law marriages
Several states recognize common-law marriages between cohabiting people, but many do not. In some states, you must participate in a ceremony with an officiant in order to claim married status.
Common-law marriage occurs when you live together for seven years
Many people believe they're automatically married when they live with a partner for a specific period, and seven years is the term commonly associated with this belief. This is simply not true.
Common-law marriages typically involve couples who behave and speak in a specific way, and some states require paperwork. Check the guidelines in your state to find out for sure.
Common-law divorces allow people to split up without paperwork.
If you live in a state that recognizes common-law marriage and you split up, you must go through a legal divorce process to separate your debts and assets just as any other married couple would.
If you live together without a common-law marriage, you're not automatically entitled to your ex's assets or debts when you separate.
Suggested: The Truth about Common-Law Marriages
ReferencesCommon Law Marriage. (September 2022). Texas Law Help.
Common Law Marriage in Texas. State Bar of Texas.
Common Law Marriage Fact Sheet. Unmarried Equality.
Now You Are 18! Houston Bar Association.