What is a common law marriage in Texas?

A common law marriage, also known as a marriage without formalities, is a legally recognized marriage that occurs without a formal ceremony or a marriage license. For a common law marriage to exists, three elements must exist: (1) there must be an “agreement” to be married; (2) the couple must “cohabitate” in Texas; and (3) the couple must “hold out” to others that they are married. If these three elements exist, then the Courts will recognize the marriage for all intents and purposes — the same as if the marriage had been formalized with a ceremony and a marriage license.

If a person needs to prove the existence of the common law marriage, for legal reasons, the legal proceeding must occur within (2) two years from the date the parties separated or ceased living together. If the person waits more than (2) two years, there becomes a “rebuttable presumption” that the couple did not have an “agreement” to be married. In essence, this “rebuttable presumption” makes it harder–but not impossible–to prove the existence of the common law marriage.

Texas Courts have provided a significant amount of case law to help define all of the terms in parentheses above. This is complicated, and the specific facts at play in each situation will be determinative of whether or not the Court will recognize a common law marriage.

If you believe that you have been in a common law marriage, and now have a legal need to prove it, contact our law firm to discuss the details and see how we can assist you.

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