A lot of people throw around the term “common law marriage” and have no idea what it really is. People tend to think that anyone who’s lived together for a certain period of time are common law spouses. It isn’t this simple.
Before we had statutes, there was something called common law. Common law was typically based on the laws in England. They work as filler laws when a statute or regulation is missing. Some states still recognize a lot of the common laws. Others have moved in the direction of eliminating common laws.
When it comes to common law marriage, some states still recognize it. Texas is one of these states. But it isn’t as simple as just living together for a certain period of time. There are a lot of things that need to exist in order to be considered a common law marriage.
The other thing about common law marriage is that it’s not always treated like a traditional, contractual marriage. It’s important to understand the differences. You may think you’re entitled to certain protection as a common law spouse. You should talk to a Houston family law attorney in order to find out where you stand.
What are the Requirements for a Common Law Marriage?
In Texas, a common law marriage is treated the same as a contractual or legal marriage. According to section 2.401 of the Texas Family Code, common law marriage is evidenced by the following things:
- You made an agreement to be married (does not have to be written)
- You lived together as husband and wife after the agreement was made
- You represented to others that you were indeed married
It has nothing to do with how long you lived together. You just have to live together as husband and wife at some point after you made the agreement to marry. If, however, you separate for a period of more than two (2) years at any point, the Court will presume you had no intention to marry.
How Do You Prove You are in a Common Law Marriage in Texas?
There are lots of reasons you may need to prove you were in a common law marriage in Texas. You may need to do so for inheritance purposes. Or, you may decide to get a divorce. Texas is a community property state. That means that you share all your debts and assets, regardless of whose name they’re in.
In order to prove you’re in a common law marriage, you need to show the following:
- Neither of you were married to anyone else (formally or informally) at the time of your agreement to marry
- Both of you were over the age of eighteen (18) at the time of the agreement
- You did indeed agree to be married
- You lived in Texas as a couple after the agreement was made
- You hold yourselves out as a couple
There are lots of ways to prove this. Since there’s no marriage certificate, like you have in a formal marriage, your Houston family law attorney will have to rely on other things to prove your marriage exists.
Some of the evidence your Houston family law attorney will use to prove you’re in a common law marriage include:
- You use the same last name
- You file a joint tax return
- You sign legal documents as husband and wife
- You own joint property together
- You have each other on a health insurance policy
- You name the other person as the beneficiary on your life insurance policy
- You apply for loans together
If your lawyer can show some or all of these things, they should be able to make a case for your common law marriage.
Why Does it Matter?
There are a few main reasons why you would want to be able to prove you’re in a common law marriage. The first reason is that it’s important to you. When you make a commitment to someone, you want it to be recognized.
The second reason you need your marriage to be recognized is for inheritance purposes. If your common law spouse dies without a will, you want to make sure you get your share of their estate.
Finally, if things don’t work out, you’ll need to file for divorce. You want to make sure you’re entitled to your spouse’s property if you separate. Since Texas is a community property state, you’ll be entitled to half of the marital assets.
If you have any questions about your common law marriage, call Eddington & Worley and speak with an experienced family law attorney today.