A couple who agrees they are married, who “holds themselves out” as married (or presents themselves as married), and who lives together as a married couple throughout the time period in question are considered to be in a common law marriage (or informal marriage) in the State of Texas. In other words, you can be married in Texas without obtaining a marriage license or having a formal wedding.
Texas Family Code
The Texas Family Code lists the specific elements that must be present to establish a common law marriage:
- The couple agrees to be married to one another.
- The couple lives together as husband and wife in the State of Texas.
- The couple tells other people in the State of Texas that they are a married couple and/or are husband and wife.
When all three components are established, the couple is in an informal marriage.
Having an Agreement to be Married
In order for a common law marriage to be present, both parties must have agreed to be in a permanent marital relationship and must be able to offer direct testimony to this agreement. If there is no written or other documented evidence, circumstantial evidence related to the final two prongs of a common law marriage can be stand in as a replacement.
Living Together as Husband and Wife
For an informal marriage to exist, the couple must live together as husband and wife in the State of Texas, which includes maintaining a household and doing all the other things that married couples typically do. In other words, having a sexual relationship while living together does not rise to the level of living together as husband and wife. There is no formal time requirement for the formation of a common law marriage.
Holding Themselves Out as Married
The final prong of a common law marriage is that the couple must present themselves as married to other people in Texas. Therefore, a couple cannot have a “secret” common law marriage. Both parties must participate in this component of an informal marriage. Further, if the couple only tells close family and friends about the marriage but attempts to keep it a secret from the general public, they will not meet this final requirement.
Establishing Your Common Law Marriage
Establishing your common law marriage can be complicated, but if you can demonstrate that all three necessary prongs were satisfied, you will likely convince the court that you and your partner were, indeed, involved in a common law or informal marriage in the State of Texas. If you lived as husband and wife in Texas – within the parameters of a common law marriage – you have certain rights that are likely to be important to your financial future.