Informal Marriage (Common Law Marriage) Requirements
Informal Marriage/Common Law Marriage Requirements
I am often asked what the requirements are for informal (or common law) marriage. Texas does recognize informal marriage. In order to be married informally, you must meet three requirements. You must 1) agree to be married; 2) live together as a married couple; and 3) hold out to others you are married.
If you meet all of these criteria, you may be informally married. Contrary to popular belief, simply living together does not create an informal marriage. All three of these criteria must be met.
Some of the things I commonly see couples do that indicate an agreement to be married include filing joint tax returns, opening and using joint bank accounts, signing medical or insurance forms indicating you have a spouse, and other acts. If these criteria are met and the relationship ends, you may need to divorce rather than simply separating.
The existence of a marriage involves some significant property issues. Determining when the marriage occurred is important when looking at when a community estate came into being, looking at whether property is separate or community, and looking at whether reimbursement claims may exist.
The criteria for informal marriage may seem simple and straightforward, but determining whether they are met and a marriage exists is a complicated question for which there is usually not a clear answer. If you and your significant other specifically do not want to be married, there are means that can be utilized to protect and preserve that non-married relationship. If you have questions about informal or common law marriage, it is important to see a lawyer to discuss your particular circumstances.
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Patric McCallum is a principal attorney with Drew & McCallum. He focuses his practice on family and business law, helping business leaders and Texas families with their legal challenges and needs. He brings a wealth of trial experience and industry knowledge to every matter he handles.